Sports Betting Is a Dead End
Our representatives need to use limited resources to generate economic prosperity, not fund false promises
June 15, 2012
Why would any state (or our nation) want to legalize sports wagering? The short answer is money! When everything else is stripped away, those who are supporting this huge expansion of legalized gambling are those who intend to profit from it, and profit greatly. Of course this includes the various gambling interests, but it also includes states that are desperate for revenue, and have been seduced by the false and misleading promise of a new revenue source without raising taxes. But the unintended negative consequences—in real money and social costs—are not unexpected or unforeseen.
In cost/benefit analyses, state, national, and international studies indicate that gambling is a losing proposition of at least 3-to-1. That is, for every new dollar the state generates from its share of gambling profits, government incurs three dollars of added expenses. These costs are both actual and associated. Most supporters do not even refute the studies that show an increase in gambling results in an increase in crime, unemployment, welfare, homelessness, suicide, and even more social carnage. They simply propose ways to mitigate them; believing the old adage "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" simply does not apply to this situation. After all, there are profits to be made. In California, more than 1 million problem and pathological gamblers cost the state more than $1 billion a year. We certainly do not need more gambling opportunities.
There is also the economic cost of discretionary spending being funneled at greater levels into the gambling sector, a sector that does not produce anything and lacks the economic multipliers of manufacturing, retail, or service sectors. Imagine if the hundreds of millions of dollars that proponents speculate will be wagered on sports were used in some other way in our economy. In our poor economic times, policymakers should be focused on ways to generate economic prosperity for all, not enrich narrow special interests that profit at the expense of others.
Earl Grinols, a Baylor University economics professor, says that one third to one half of gambling revenues will come from problem gamblers. Is this really the reason we elected our representatives—to exploit citizens with uncontrollable gambling urges?
Finally, nearly all sports associations have firm anti-gambling policies, and some relate to states with legalized wagering on athletic events. In the case of the NCAA, no championship game will be allowed to be played in such states. So this seductive policy wager isn't even about sports. It's about the greed of a few well-financed interest groups that enjoy disproportionate influence in far too many statehouses.