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Palladino: Supreme Court Ruling Changes Little About Sports Betting

Gambling Already Has Been Going On For Eons

Ernie Palladino
May 16, 2018 - 10:57 am

For just a couple of seasons back in the 1980s, my dad and I partook in what we considered a daring father-son activity.

We bet on college football. Nothing big. Twenty-five dollars here, $50 if we thought we had a lock. He had this bookie, and it was all good fun done in complete moderation. And, yes, there was something exciting about going behind the law’s back to place those small wagers -- kind of the same thrill we got from throwing a buck or two down on the teaser sheets from the local bar.

We stopped eventually, not because of any moral epiphany, but because I was too cheap to keep losing part of my paycheck.

The point here is that sports gambling has been going on in one form or another, among people of all persuasions and economic classes, since a bunch of naked Greeks wrestled in the first Olympics. So for all the intricacies this week’s Supreme Court ruling entailed in striking down a federal statute prohibiting sports betting at the state level, precious little will change about the practice.

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The ruling, in effect, will simply make it easier for everybody to donate their paychecks, social security stipends and pensions to the institution or website of their choice. You know, make it easier to do what folks have been doing anyway.

They’ll just have more choices if they live in the right states. New Jersey will be the first to jump on this, as Monmouth Park Racetrack has already geared up with plans to open its sports book on Memorial Day. The Meadowlands and other tracks are sure to follow.

Don’t think New York will stay out of this for long, either, since the Oneida Indian Nation-owned casinos, seven private ones, and racetracks that mix horse betting with video-lottery games have already expressed interest in starting sports books. It may take a year to hammer out the legalities, but rest assured, it will get done. There’s too much tax money involved not to.

The online people will also make a killing. That New York brouhaha over whether DraftKings and FanDuel constituted gambling in March 2016 was squelched five months later. Now, with zero ambiguity attached, those services will probably experience a huge uptick in participation, in turn yielding an increase in tax revenue.

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The sports books undoubtedly will figure out some online viaduct, too, so patrons won’t have to trek to the venues to place their bets.

Kind of like calling Joe the Bookie in the old days.

Of course, the critics will warn against the dangers of gambling. Indeed, plenty of people have lost houses, families, jobs, even their lives over compulsive betting. It’s nothing to be trifled with. It’s horrifying to watch a loved one sink to such depths.

But that was never a disease one caught exclusively in Las Vegas or Reno. Many fell into the clutches of the illegal bookies and loan sharks.

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In other words, it was happening eons before this case was but a glimmer in the Supreme Court’s collective eye. If the states really care about the problem bettor, perhaps they can direct some of the expected tax windfall to rehabilitation.

Let’s also bury for good the argument about integrity among the pros and collegians. That one flew out the window when the NFL OK'd the Raiders’ move to Vegas, a city the league eschewed for years. Then the NHL beat them there with the expansion Golden Knights, who just happen to be playing Winnipeg in the Western Conference finals.

For all the recruiting violations Jerry Tarkanian racked up when he coached the Nevada-Las Vegas basketball team, the Runnin’ Rebels never ran into a gambling rap.

It’s hard to believe a bunch of highly paid professionals are going to start throwing games. Point-shaving on the collegiate level will always remain a danger whether betting is illegal or not, at least until the NCAA does something about its antiquated insistence on amateurism.

So, really, the Supreme Court ruling changes nothing and everything. People will still bet on team sports. Many more, probably, simply because it will become easier to place one. There will be regulations and consumer protections, which is a lot different than what the local bookie ever provided.

And the states will get a cut of the action, with the promise that much will go toward education.

We’ll believe that when we see it.

So go ahead. Place your bets.

At least until you get tired of bidding your paycheck farewell.

Follow Ernie on Twitter at @ErniePalladino