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SI FOR KIDS
Legalize gambling? You bet!
Posted: Wed April 1, 1998
This is what we know. Periodically, for a half-century, college basketball players have been caught point-shaving. Everybody then weeps and wails and gnashes teeth, lamenting the horrors that gambling brings.
But this we know, too. All sorts of other sports are also bet on, and there are no fixing scandals affixed to them.
So, as inconvenient as this makes it for knee-jerkers and moralists and the NCAA, it is easy to deduce that gambling on college basketball is only an instrument of the fixes, not the cause.
You don't want the young children and impressionable adults to hear this, of course, but I would suggest that these regular college basketball scandals would be greatly reduced, maybe even virtually eliminated, if betting on sportson college basketballwas made generally legal throughout the Republic.
Now, empirically, the reason why fixing scandals occur more in basketballprobably a lot more than comes to the surface is that basketball is the easiest game to fix. Oh, but, why then are there no professional basketball fixes?
The answer, of course, is that NBA players to make too much money to risk their careers on even a big one-shot jackpot. Likewise, isn't it revealing that no college stars are ever caught fixing? Rather, it is only pretty good college players with no significant future in the game.
You see, it's not just that college kids succumb to temptation because they're offered money. Invariably, the argument that turns their heads toward crime is couched in terms of fairness. Hey, dude, everybody else in college basketball is making money: coaches, athletic departments, sponsors, sneaker companies, bookies, the media, the airlines, the hotels. Only the people who incidentally play college basketball are locked out of the bonanza. Hey, don't be a sucker.
For an analogy, it's worth remembering the Black Sox baseball scandal of 1919. The Chicago players who fixed the World Series were not evil; rather, they were vulnerable for one prime reasonthey were grossly underpaid by the White Sox owner, Charles Comiskey. The players felt betrayed and used. It's the same in basketball today.
Besides, all the gum-flapping and hand-wringing about how sinful sports betting is strikes any rational young man as obscenely hypocritical. We live in a society where betting is legal for lotteries, casinos, slot machines, horses, dogs, but we draw some transparent line and say that somehow it's only sinful to bet on games...while at the same time we allow gangsters to profit by that twisted reasoning. Besides, everybody knows that legal sports wagering happily proceeds in the great state of Nevada and throughout much of the rest of the world. People will bet. Everywhere, they will bet on sports.
Now, if sports gambling were legalized in America, the profits could pay college players a reasonable remuneration; also, the money could be used to fund inner-city sports and other worthy athletic endeavors.
Or, we can, like the Pharisees, keep shouting to the heavens about how dreadful gambling is...letting the gangsters grow richer off our high moral posturing.
The legal prohibition against sports gambling simply doesn't work. After the breast-beating dies down, there will be another college basketball scandal soon enough. Kids who see that they are cheated will cheat.
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