It's Time To Legalize Online Sports Wagering

It's Time To Legalize Online Sports Wagering

Published Jan. 18, 2012 12:00 a.m. ET

Raise your hand if you've ever bet on a sporting event.

If you aren't raising your hand then you've never entered an NCAA tournament pool where you could win money, you've never had a handshake bet over who will win a game with a friend of yours, you've never played fantasy football with potential payouts for winning a league, you've never been to Las Vegas and wagered on an event, you don't wager online, and you don't have a bookie.

Basically, I don't believe there is a single person reading this column right now who hasn't bet on sports in some form or fashion.

Why does that matter?


Because only sports bets placed in Las Vegas are technically legal right now under American law.

The rest of us are all violating the law.

How unbelievably stupid is this?

At a time when states and governments are all strapped for cash, do we really need to spend more of our tax dollars arresting and prosecuting people for permitting online sports wagering?

We can thank a 1992 law sponsored by New Jersey senator Bill Bradley for stripping away our legal right to bet on sports. Why did the law pass? Because Bradley persuaded congressmen that allowing extensive sports wagering increased the odds that players would fix games. Of course it's actually the exact opposite since taking sports wagering out of the underground and placing it front and center actually decreases the chance of sports fixing since irregular betting patterns are noticed immediately. Companies involved in sports wagering have even more incentive than the leagues to ensure that there is no game fixing going on.

But congressmen are often stupid, and they bought Bradley's weak sales pitch and an entire generation later you can still only legally wager on individual games in the state of Nevada.

But that may be changing because yesterday the state of New Jersey passed a law that would allow individual game wagering in its state as soon as the federal law is overturned.

Surprisingly, this new legislation has not gotten much atention yet. You can read about it here.

More states will likely follow. The tide of public opinion favors legalization.   

Raising the question, how is it that in an age when you can buy or sell virtually anything online, we don't allow sports gambling to take place online?

Isn't that beyond stupid?

Especially since the federal government recently acknowleged that online lottery tickets were legal.

We're talking about billions of dollars in additional revenues for the states -- money that could go to college scholarships just like scratch off lottery tickets do now. Cash-strapped state representatives are looking at the pile of unregulated sports wagering currently escaping state coffers and asking the same questions.

"Let's face it — sports gaming is already taking place, but the only people taking advantage of it are the bookies and criminal enterprises," New Jersey's Deputy Assembly Speaker John Burzichelli said. "This opens the door for New Jersey to implement well-regulated sports gaming."

Online sports gaming would also, selfishly, open up a massive new advertising stream for the world of sports media. For a multi-billion dollar online market, billions of dollars in advertising spending would flow out into the stream of commerce in a quest to grab customers. (Yes, OTKC would stand to benefit from this goldmine but so would every other member of sports media with any audience whatsoever.) With sportswriters losing jobs left and right, there are probably thousands of additional writers that would keep their jobs if online gambling was legalized and the advertising dollars followed the readers.  

Bradley's 19992 legislation is also potentially unconstitutional -- how can the federal government be in the business of picking winners and codifying monopolies -- hello state of Nevada -- while restricting other states and individuals from participating in sports wagering?

Talk about a boondoggle for a special interest, how many other industries outside of sports gaming in America have the right to engage in something that the federal government will put a competitor in jail for doing?

Think about this for a minute, are there any?

Las Vegas has a codified exemption to a federal law that ensures they have the exclusive right for single game sports wagering in the country. As if that wasn't enough of a competitive advantage, if someone else attempts to compete with them, they go to jail.


I don't care where your political persuasions lie, Democrat, Republican, or non-voter, doesn't that strike you as downright astounding? And flagrantly unconstitutional? 

Online sports gambling is a multi-billion dollar offshore industry. As soon as the United States made online gaming legal, those companies -- and many more -- would immediately relocate to American shores and start paying American taxes. Many of the tens of millions of people making illegal online wagers would come out of the underground and the dollars would benefit our communities.

What's the value in making online sports wagers illegal?

Put simply, there aren't any at all.