By Rachel Brody |
Legal or not, sports betting is already taking place within our country.
Recently in New Jersey, 13 members and associates of the Genovese organized crime family were charged in a scheme to use an overseas sports betting website to run an illegal online sports gambling operation. This perfect storm is made possible by federal laws that essentially give organized crime and overseas interests a virtual monopoly on sports wagering in the 46 states that are prohibited from setting up legal sports wagering.
Legalizing sports wagering recognizes the inevitable—that people are going to bet on sports, whether the practice is legal or not, and that we should provide a safe and legal avenue for them to bet on their favorite teams. By mainstreaming sports wagering, we can take some of the power away from organized crime and offshore Internet operators, and put it in the regulated hands of existing casino and racetrack operators. And we can create new jobs and new economic opportunities for our ailing gaming establishments.
Club CalNeva, a Las Vegas-based analyst of trends in gaming, estimated that legal sports wagering in New Jersey could generate as much $1.3 billion in gross revenues and $120 million in tax revenues for New Jersey, along with thousands of new jobs for New Jersey residents.
The opponents of sports wagering—namely professional sports organizations and casino operators with a vested interest in the status quo—say that legal sports wagering will "jeopardize the integrity of the game." The sheer hypocrisy of this statement, in an era in which professional sports have turned a blind eye on performance enhancers and other scandals, is laughable.
What's more, our society already gives its tacit approval to sports wagering. Don't believe me? Open to the sports page of any national newspaper in states that do not allow for legal sports betting, and you'll see terms like "covering the spread," "the line," or "the over/under"—terms that oddsmakers use to set the parameters on sports wagers.
New Jersey is going forward with sports betting and anticipates the expected court challenge from the NFL. We expect to win in court, but Congress should do the right thing and repeal its sports betting ban, which puts our gaming industry at a competitive disadvantage to Las Vegas, organized crime, and overseas Internet operations. It's about jobs, it's about economic activity, and it's about fairness for states like New Jersey.
About Raymond J. Lesniak New Jersey State Senator
Roderick D. Wright California State Senator
Gary Payne Managing Director of the International Sports Betting Association
John Warren Kindt Professor at the University of Illinois