Talk sports, pop culture and more with SI.com's Jimmy Traina.
10/04/2006 09:05:00 AM
Sports Illustrated did a feature story about gambling in 1986, but it's a whole new world now thanks to the Internet.
Photo by Lane Stewart/SI
Many of you probably saw the end of Sunday's Colts-Jets game, which featured eight laterals and concluded with an Indianapolis defender recovering a fumble and taking off with the ball, only to be quickly tackled. Well, if the player hadn't been stopped and managed to score, the Colts would have covered the spread. More shocking, NBC's Bob Costas addressed this on Football Night in America.
I was stunned when I heard Costas explain why that failed runback was important, because the NFL likes to give the impression that it is against betting. The league is paranoid about the subject, to the point of absurdity. For example, after signing a deal with NBC, the league banned the network from running promos for the show Las Vegas during NFL coverage. Yet, go to NFL.com and there is a huge fantasy football section. Now, of course, the NFL would claim that people play fantasy football for fun and not for cash -- but that's like claiming guys buy Playboy to read the articles.
While the NFL doesn't have to support betting, it can't ignore it (and luckily, Costas didn't on Sunday night). Lines are everywhere; office pools are popular; talk radio, TV and newspapers have handicappers (and swamis) giving out picks every week. The NFL knows its sport is top dog in large part because of betting. The league needs those lines in the papers and it needs people making those bets. It just has to act like it doesn't support it. Sort of like the U.S. government.
The day after Costas' candid observation, I saw this story, which says that President Bush is expected to sign a bill that will make it even tougher to bet online -- something that's already illegal.
I've been torn on the issue of whether gambling should be legal for a long time. I believe that obsessive gambling is a disease and that it's a dangerous addiction. But I believe the same thing about smoking, and that's legal. Where should the line be drawn? Who should draw the line, if anyone? As the story linked above states, credit-card companies are getting killed because people are using plastic to pay off debts. Clearly, online betting leads to a new set of problems. However, the government's proposed bill will do nothing. You can still add funds to a Neteller account via your credit card. You can wire money to a gambling Web site via your credit card. You can fill out a blank check that credit-card companies send you, deposit it in your bank account and use the money for your online gambling account.
The government's involvement in this is completely disingenous. Forty states currently offer lotteries. If you go into a stationary store these days, they offer a wider variety of scratch-offs than they do magazines and cigarettes combined. Why is this OK? Where's the government on this issue? You especially start to wonder about that when you see stories like this. But governments make money on lotteries, so they are OK. But offshore gambling sites, not operated in the U.S., are not.
The real reason is simple, and it has nothing to do with protecing credit-card companies. The government is unhappy that the money people are losing on gambling Web sites is going overseas. The government is pro gambling when it makes money off lotteries, horse racing and casinos. It just doesn't want the money going to operators of these overseas Web sites.
So in the end, the government and the NFL are both phonies when it comes to betting. But it doesn't matter. Scratch-offs will be bought. Lines will be in your newspapers. And people will keep betting. Heck, I'm off to Vegas tomorrow with about a dozen good buddies for our friend Drill's wedding and all anyone can talk about is betting college football on Saturday and the NFL on Sunday. I just wish all the posturing and grandstanding and fake outrage in regard to gambling would stop.
So here are my questions for you: Should betting be legal? Should the government tax it and make a profit off it? If it were legal, do you think players would fix games? If people couldn't bet, how much of a blow would it be to the NFL? Let me hear your thoughts.
Clearly the NFL needs betting to maintain its position atop the American sports landscape. A sixteen game season makes the thrill of betting greater than in any other major sport, which leads to increased viewers for the league. If these sites were based on American soil and were taxed by the federal government, would the Senate still be as quick to admonish them? And credit card companies don't mind their cards being used to pay debts for gambling sites, after all, they make all their profit by jacking up unpaid bills with interest. But the government is ok with that.
Darn right it should be legal, but then again I'm a bit of a liberterian so it's not surprising I think that. As you point out, gambling may be a dangerous addiction for some folks, but so are cigarettes, alcohol, fatty foods, online video games, casual sex... the list goes on. The government is not your babysitter.
Will gambling cause some players to fix games? Yes, every now and then, this will happen. (Black Sox, anyone?) But I would argue that illegal gambling is *more* likely to inspire players to fix games. Keep it above the table, where it's much harder for a player to place a secret bet on their own game.
(And make it legal in the US so our nation can start getting that sweet sweet revenue stream too!)
Online gambling should be left the way it is. It would be too hard to track and require too many resources. If the government decided to tax online betting, will my $50 entry fee to my fantasy league be taxed? Too many questions.
Good article. It's the same here in Canada, gambling illegal- unless the government gets it's piece. Kinda like a bad mafia movie. Just like booze and smoking, gambling should be legalized and taxed. It would be safer that way and we're adults with the right to choose. That said, gambling can be a very serious addiction issue and unlike addictions with better recovery support, like alchoholics or drug users, gamblers have little to turn to other than poorly staffed 800#'s. Legalize it and beef up assistance for those who can't control what should be mere entertainment.
What's more absurd is the idea of Monday Night Football without gambling. Gamblers live for MNF so that they can comeback and try to recoup their loses in a last ditch effort... And if the NFL doesn't like gambling then why do they continue to put games that include the Texans, Lions, and Cardinals on the schedule?
It's amazing how the conservatives are against 'big' government, yet they want to legislate morality. Legalize gambling, drugs and prostitution and tax it. Do they not remember the lessons of prohibition? Soliders are dying every day, kids can't read....but the country will be saved if I can't place a wager on Monday Night Football? Just remember, this is the same government where, the Attorney general had a nude statue covered up because he was offended.
I can't picture football without gambling and I can't picture football without beers. Then again I was a huge football fan for 10-12 years before I placed my first bet and before I sipped my first beer. Don't make it seem like it's a sport for junkies.
As our Nations debt continues to soar there will have to be a day, Gov't like it or not, that you will be able to go to a 7-11 style store and buy a gov't taxed pack of marijuanna and place a wager. Only way to pay off our costs of war and overspending by our gov't.
How are the credit card companies being hurt? They are accrueing debt from the users of the credit card when they place bets. Is it because the debts are not being paid off? Seems to me that the more people charge, the better off the credit card companies are. If it is about default, many people default on credit card bills other than gambling. And who in America, besides the congressmen who receive "donations" from the credit card lobby, really gives a rat's a** about the well being of credit card companies?
I once read how the NFL use examples of how many viewers were tuned in to the last few minutes of one-sided games to sell TV rights. For example... 95% of viewers still tuned in with 2 minutes left, Indy has the ball and is up by 9. The don't mention that the spread was 11 points. NFL is almost as hypocritical when it comes to gambling as the government is.
The government's position on this is short-sighted and hypocritical.
By legalizing online gambling, our government would encourage the development of online sites that are operated within the United States. By extension, this would provide another revenue stream via taxation and a means to regulate the industry without trying to circumvent international law. However, rather than realizing this new revenue stream, our government is content to spend millions to minimize the impact of offshore operations.
Given that townships, states and the federal government tax nearly everything and anything to balance out their increasing spending, this would appear to be a simple decision.
While pilfering from the poor via state run gambling, our politicians are bemoaning the popularity of internet gambling. However, studies have shown that the typical online gambler tends to be a male, 25-34, with a college degree and with more disposable income than the average laborer. I'm sure that exceptions certainly exist, but by and large, the online gambling community appears to consist of well-educated people with the means to entertain themselves via gambling rather than low-income individuals.
Obviously, the concern is clearly not about the impact on lower middle class and poverty stricken people and families. State sponsored gambling, via lotteries and scratch-offs, offer horrific returns and absurdly long odds. Your standard pick-three lotto, for example, returns only about $550 on what are mathematically 1000-1 odds. In all forms of gambling, the odds and payouts favor the house, but state lotteries are particularly galling. You won't find any online sites or even a local bookie who take even a quarter of the reprehensible 45% juice that the State happily assesses.
Clearly, our government approves of gambling without much concern, other than lip service, to its impact on its constituents. So, why wouldn't they legalize online gambling and permit sites within the US?
I think the answer is that they simply can't tax it enough to be economically viable and competitive versus existing off-shore sites. It's much more cost effective to eliminate to discourage online gambling via the spectre of law enforcement than to try to compete domestically against it. The theory, I believe, is that online gamblers would find another avenue for their disposable income, preferably via state lotteries and their ridiculous returns or, at the least, via commercial goods, which are taxed every step of the way from production to purchase.
A 6-10% juice is too small-time for our government, but the millions leaving the country can't be ignored. Solve the problem by legislating your citizen's lives.
The government looks like a joke on this issue. They are clearly being greedy with the matter and only want what they think is theirs. It's unbelievable to think of how greedy our government can be with everything else that is going on in this country.
Those who think it would be easy for the government to tax online betting are missing the crucial problem. Offshore companies can't be US regulated, meaning they don't have to report their payouts, making it impossible for Uncle Sam to track and tax them. The government makes the act of placing the bet illegal because that's the only thing that happens on US soil, so that's the only thing they can regulate.
Whether or not this is the top priority for politicians is immaterial; the government is fully capable of addressing multiple issues simultaneously. But, I've always felt that regulation solely for regulation's sake is outside of the original intent of the government, so I'm obviously against this bill. The fact that they passed it by tacking it onto the end of an unrelated bill makes it all the more egregious.
The bottom line is that gambling has been around for millenia, and it's not going anywhere, no matter how the government wants to criminalize it. Acceptance of that fact, and legalization (and subsequent regulation and taxation) of gambling would be much more effective than prohibition (much like was the case with alcohol).
The bill is so morally flawed its pathetic. The fact that fat cats in DC aren't senstive to the moral conflict due to lobbyists, governmental greed, etc. makes this bill flawed. Tacking it onto a security bill is outragous behavior.
Smoking kills, Alcholics are alive and not well, Welfare addicts keep having babies and are rewarded for it.....what gives all forms of addiction abound in human behavior? Moral compunction depends on strong families having the guts to say 'enough is enough' using personal connection using tough love. Morality cannot and should not be imposed by government. This only devalues the family overall.
AND, concerning morality....look at the most recent scandal involving young boys and an internet sexual predator. Who ARE these people!!!
Why prevent most people from enjoying pools, lotteries, gaming, etc. when most do it recreationally? Why does the government love smoking dollars so much - why aren't all those revenues strictly earmarked to improve healthcare in this country and nothing more - it's obscene. Cigs are overtaxed and smokers are footing the bill for all kinds of social benefits as though their sad 'sinful' habit is just an open wallet for the rest of us - this is so wrong and immoral - it's stealing and should be stopped!
Congress is full of arses who don't deserve better wages/benefits than their constituants. Representative government is a thing of the past - it's time to bring it back and get rid of aristocracy. Working people deserve more from this government. Non-working people should only get what we can afford and nothing more or better.
Libertarians should be all over this! We're not in a democracy any more - it's all about special interests and victim groups. The majority is overruled and over governed. Where are the true Americans and why are we importing 3rd world leaches?
The fact that it was tied to a terrorism/security bill makes me want to puke and proves why I have politicians. They forced it through, because if you vote against the bill, you are voting against the security of our great nation! How could you! Just take your cut with a tax and quit trying to legislate morality. Congress has much bigger things to worry about, the question is whether they will get around to them...
The goverment already got thier cut damit, 40 percent of my paycheck goes to taxes. It's my money at that point and I should be able to do with it as I please. Not sure when this nation is going to wake up and do something...
I can go to Biloxi, Tunica, Atlantic City, Las Vegas, or even a gambling boat right here at home and lose my life savings in 10 minutes, but some how the GREAT AND ALL KNOWING FEDERAL GOVERNMENT WHO SEEKS TO PROTECT YOU FROM YOURSELF or GAAKFGWSTPYFY wants to stop me from playing a $12 SNG online. Wonderful.
It's been said before, but we are allowed to do other "unhealthy" activities, like smoking, drinking, eat fast food, buy a gun. And why is it legal to place a bet on US soil in Vegas or other places, but not over the internet? The government is way off on this one....
Betting should be legal. The government should not tax it, since it has already been taxed at least once. But taxation is better than prohibition.
Players are much more likely to fix games at an illegal bookie. When the line moves suspiciously on pinnacle, it's easy to recognize who's throwing a fight or game.
The NFL would lose it's number one spot in American sports for sure. BTW, nobody buys NFL Ticket for because they like watching football; without the current illegal sports betting set-up, there would probably be about fifteen subscriptions to it.
Coming from someone who plays online poker, i feel this is bill is going to lead to MORE compulsive gambling. People are going to be forced to go to less reputable sites that may not be able to detect collusion among players or have malicious software.
Regulate it, and leaglize it. I think the majority of online players just want to play.
I side much closer to the government on this one. Why should we be shipping off money to people in other countries who use the money for who knows what. I'd like to see either internet gambling illegal, or have it regulated so that only those sites HQ'd in the U.S. are legal. The argument about internet gambling being equivalent to any other type of gambling is bogus. In Michigan, the 100% of the proceeds from the state lottery go to fund public education. 100% of the proceeds from internet gambling go... well who knows where, and that's a big problem.
Of course the government is choosing this as something to crack down on,and the fact that it is gambling is irrelevant. The Bush Administration can't win anything right now so it has to have some cause to champion to make it look like they're in control of something. I personally hate football but I love to gamble and the NFL should just take the next logical step and create their own independant book so they can truly be a one stop sports league. They can use the profits for player pension, charitible donations, gamblers anonymous or whatever it wants to do and then the government will be happy and everyone wins.
No sane society will want to permit the growth of unlimited access to gambling. As gambling explodes, gambling addiction grows right along with it- and the terrible, destructive costs to individuals, families, and society multiply. This is not about BANNING gambling, there are still plenty of places you can legally gamble if you want to. This is about not letting access to it get out of control. If we save the futures of thousands of young people by keeping them away from gambling, the loss of convienence in not being able to play blackjack from your living room is well worth it. Limiting gambling limits the problems associated with it. Seems like a good deal to me.
If the NFL is not concerned about gambling interests why would they require the teams to make public injuries to key players. There can be no other reason than to let odds makers have more information from which to calculate the odds and spread.
What ever happened to personal responsibility? Why am I being punished because some people can't control themselves? Perhaps these people should learn to get help or their family and friends should get them help.
I find it absolutely ridiculous that the government feels they have the right to control what we do with the money we have earned and payed taxes on.
Having the oversight provided by the Vegas sportsbook administrators has helped catch point shavers in the past. The ASU hoops team in the late '90s had a shaving scandal that was found when the books in Vegas started taking in huge volumes of bets on seemingly mundane midseason games, with the large late bets always coming down on the side against ASU. With those patterns, several contacted each other and the FBI to confirm the information and the shaver(s?) were caught and thrown off the team all the way to prison. The gambling license that the State of Nevada provides to these casinos is almost a license to print money, but it does have rules and regulations to adhere to. Without those rules do you think that the casinos would have gone to the Federal authorities with their info and opened their books to prove the point shaving case? As long as the casinos are getting plenty of action, they really do not care who the bets are on. But when something fishy like this is happening they want to show their bettors that they run a clean house, and that also helps them keep that all-important gaming license. Would your local bookie contact Federal authorities when they see some strange betting patterns? NO! They may stop taking bets on games if it looks fishy, or they might just hedge the bets they get with another bookie. I compare the on-line websites to the local bookie right now. They have nothing to gain and everything to lose if the contact the Feds when something is going wrong. License and tax them! They make plenty of money and would be very willing to pay the tax if that meant they could run their operation cleanly, professionally, and without the threat of prosecution.
One issue I'm surprised no one seems to be addressing. If sports betting via the internet is stamped out, illegal gambling stateside will grow....the local bookie will rise again. (with the money often finding its way to organized crime) Not only would this help to line the pockets of organized crime, it would also have dire consequences for some people, much worse than just a large credit card bill. Why is no one talking about this? I realize that illegal bookies are not currently dead, but one would have to think that the ability to use a credit card online has severely cut into their business. Take this away, and gamblers will again be looking for a "guy who knows a guy" which can be a lot more of a risky proposition....and it's putting money in the hands of people with direct ability to do harm to us and our society.
well, I totally agree with you guys and beleive the federal government just made an unconstitutional move, so the question is, How do we go about getting this reversed? As when the prohibition was lifted.
I'm anti-gambling. Lots of people I know are anti-gambling. Somehow, they just don't seem as phony as most of the comments posted here.
I understand it's your money. I also understand that you -- who are statistically speaking, an average American -- are not particularly brighter, more gifted, or more genetically superior than your average Joe Schmo who lives in Bangladesh. What's the difference? A government that on a myriad of levels works FOR you rather than against you. You wonder where Uncle Sam gets off, telling YOU what YOU can do with YOUR money; I say, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Uncle Sam has done a great job giving you enough disposable income that gambling is even an issue. Not that the American government is perfect, and immune to criticism -- it just baffles me that all these totally normal, unremarkable people that would be penniless paupers in another country -- that they manage to feel indignant at the government that allowed them to get rich.
You hit the nail on the head my friend. It's ok to go to a bar and play keno, or run to the packy and buy a 6 pack and 20 scratchers. It's even ok to bet on horses/dogs, mind you some feel this is cruelty to animals, and it's legal. But when i want to put 50 bucks into a poker site to burn a few hours and hopefully make some loot im treated like a criminal. Put limits on online gambling (IE daily amount a person can deposit) Who's to say i dont take my life savings and blow it on 500 scratch tickets?!?! If i want to lose my money let me lose my money, i earned it therefor earn to right to use it the way i want
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