How Detractors of Nationwide Sports Betting Continue to Miss the Point

Sports betting detractors – mainly politicians and state-appointed officials who simply can’t see what’s in it for them – are continually missing the point when it comes to the relationship between sports, fans and gamblers.
Bowling missing pins

With the Murphy V. NCAA case on the verge of a ruling that would make Las Vegas-style sports betting available to any state that wants to legalize it, you can’t read a current article on sports betting that doesn’t analyze the far-reaching impact of the case in some way. And with good reason: there are many interested parties, including states, politicians, sports book operators, gamblers, professional sports leagues and perhaps the most overlooked group in all of this, sports fans.

I’m certainly going to discuss the impact of the impending legalization of gambling on sports in the United States – but with a twist. More specifically, I’ll focus on how sports betting naysayers – mainly politicians or state-appointed officials who simply can’t see what’s in it for them – are continually missing the point when it comes to the relationship between sports, fans and gamblers.

A terrible sports betting analogy

Let’s kick things off with a good laugh.

If you need proof that state officials, politicians or others in positions of power only care about supporting the views of the grossly uninformed individuals who wield the power to get them re-elected, check out this quote, taken from an article in The Wall Street Journal (paywall):

“Gene Mills, president of the conservative Louisiana Family Forum, said the argument that sports betting should be allowed because the state already permits other gambling is like an obese diabetic deciding to eat more sugary food because they already do so anyway.”

Hey, Gene, did you know diabetes is a disease? Diseases are categorically bad. Nobody in their right mind would argue against the notion that there are zero good things about diabetes. To be quite honest, using a disease in an analogy where you relate it to the legalization of sports betting, which is arguably extremely positive, is downright offensive.

Shame on you, Gene Mills. Shame on you.

The math is simple: $1.5 billion > $0

Let’s do some easy math. If people like Gene Mills feel more comfortable, we can use a calculator, just to be sure.

Which number is greater: 0 or 1,500,000,000?

It’s a tough one, I know. But it’s only tough when you assign meaning to the numbers – at least for people trying to get re-elected. A slice of a $1.5 billion pie – the revenue derived from the current illegal sports betting market each year? Nah, our state doesn’t need that, because it’s gambling revenue, and gambling is the devil (according to the majority of our population who votes for me!).

Luckily, sports betting detractors are in the minority. Most people can do simple math, and realize that legalized sports betting could bring in $6.03 billion annually by 2023. Thank goodness for logic!

How sports betting brings in additional revenue

The thing about sports that’s being conveniently ignored by people who think gambling is “bad” is that it brings people together. Consider the Super Bowl’s ability to give an entire country a reason to throw a party regardless of whether or not they’re football fans.

For passionate sports fans, there are many “Super Bowls” throughout the year. For some fans, it’s every Sunday; for others, it’s when their favorite team plays. For casinos – currently only in Las Vegas, at least among US casinos – each of these events is an opportunity to generate revenue, and not just revenue from bets wagered.

Lagasse’s Stadium at The Palazzo, which bills itself as “a new breed of sports bar that’s part sportsbook, restaurant and entertainment club,” is all of the ways sports betting generates revenue other than wagers rolled into one.

More TVs than you could ever dream of? Check. A great menu with chef-inspired takes on classic game-day foods? You got it. The ability to place a bet while on the way to the bar to buy a round for your table? Absolutely.

As a passionate sports fan who sometimes likes to place a wager on the game I’m watching, I can say with absolute certainty that these kinds of establishments would fare extremely well across this entire sports-crazed nation. Anybody who says otherwise is, quite frankly, wrong.

The future of sports betting in Pennsylvania

Unfortunately for sports betting enthusiasts in PA, legalized betting on sports may be short-lived, at least if state lawmakers have anything to say about it. A brief look at Pennsylvania’s sports betting licensing fees and tax rates suggests sports betting operators would have to give up 41% of their gross revenue – and that’s after a $10 million up front fee.

I wish those operators the best of luck, but I wouldn’t bet on too many coming on board.

It’s disappointing that both detractors of legalized sports betting and states that are anxiously awaiting their slice of the pie can fail so badly at simple math, but here we are.

Maybe, just maybe, logic will win out. With a reasonable tax rate, both brick-and-mortar and online sports books in the Keystone State will thrive, bringing all that revenue with them.


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