Analytics Expert Dispels Major Myths of Legalized Sports Gambling

Those who oppose legalization often bring up groundless fears like widespread addiction and fixed matches. Don't believe them.



Sports gambling has become an increasingly hot topic, with National Basketball Association (NBA) commissioner Adam Silver endorsing legalization in a November New York Times op-ed. There's a pending lawsuit in New Jersey over allowing sports betting, and Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) has called for Congressional hearings on the topic.

Along with the talk, of course, has come a frenzy of scare tactics trumping up groundless fears about the potential effects of legalized gambling from those who oppose legalization.

On ESPN's gambling blog, Jeff Ma—the inspiration for Bringing Down the House, a book about how six Massachusetts Institute of Technology students counted cards to win millions at Las Vegas casinos—examined some of these myths. Here's a summary of some of the points he addresses:

  1. Legalized gambling won't increase the likelihood of rigged matches, because bringing betting out of the seedy black market underworld—where the vast majority of gambling currently takes place—and into regulated legal markets would only add transparency.
  2. It's not clear that legalized sports gambling would hurt Las Vegas—currently the only place in the country where it's legal to bet on individual sports games. Casinos have existed in other states for decades, during which time business in Vegas has blossomed.
  3. Small-time illegal bookies won't be put out of business, as their business models differ from legal casinos. Bookies allow a line of credit to bettors—something legal sportsbooks don't offer.
  4. Legalization won't create more "problem gamblers." With legalized gambling, unlike with illegal gambling, (a) gamblers are not allowed to take out debt to place bets and (b) many of the public stigmas around gambling are lessened or removed, making it easier for those with gambling issues to openly talk about any addictions.
  5. Sports leagues won't receive large amounts of revenue. Asking for a cut from sportsbooks would create a conflict of interest. Also, leagues do not have a legal right to claim copyright on statistics used for wagers.

Could sports gambling see the next wave of pushes for national legalization after marijuana? Perhaps. Dispelling some of the myths around betting is a good way to set the issue on that potential track, though.

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  1. Say it so Joe.

  2. regulated legal markets would only add transparency.

    1. Yeah…Anyone around here wanna take a guess as to why this gets seen as a feature when people talk of decriminalizing things?

      More to the point, it’s a head-scratcher when it comes from people who have identified themselves as “libertarian”.

      1. Amazing, a two-person echo chamber.

  3. Small-time illegal bookies won’t be put out of business, as their business models differ from legal casinos. Bookies allow a line of credit to bettors?something legal sportsbooks don’t offer.

    But the licensing forms you have to fill out to break a deadbeat’s legs are a pain in the ass.

  4. Agree, except for this part:

    (a) gamblers are not allowed to take out debt to place bets

    What’s to stop them?

    1. I agree. Read sections three and four again and see if it makes sense. On one hand, we’re stating that it won’t put small-time bookies out of business because they operate as creditors. On the other, now we can’t take out loans? Doesn’t make sense, at least in this summation.

      1. something legal sportsbooks don’t offer.

        Illegal bookies will still be illegal, not having to adhere to the “no credit” deal, just like the stupidly high taxes on marijuana and cigarettes have left a niche for gray-market pot and tobacco.

        1. “Illegal bookies will still be illegal”

          Great point. My bad on the reading angle. It’s not up for debate that they’re legal or not. But saying that it will combat credit extensions and, therefore, debt, still doesn’t make sense unless there’s an assumed quid pro quo of no loans nor predatory (for lack of a better term, thanks, I know) lending services. I could easily see financial “services” being offered by legalized sports books like “cash your paycheck!” incentives, credit card advances, etc.

    2. I was of the impression that major casino operations accepted credit cards, which would amount to taking out debt to place a bet, even if you pay off your whole balance every month. Am I wrong about that?

      1. The major casino operations are getting paid by Amex, Visa, etc. The debt is a third-party deal. The casinos aren’t creditors.

  5. This is one of those things where so many people have an uncle or cousin or sibling that has a problem and so they’re completely unable to be rational about the matter.

    Personally, I liked having relatives who were heavily involved in flipping houses when the bubble burst view me as a degenerate. To quote Ambrose Bierce: “The gambling known as business looks with austere disfavor upon the business known as gambling.”

  6. Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out. This is wha? I do……

    1. Get help immediately for this Google gambling problem.

  7. OT: Overlooked in the FCC’s net neutrality ruling coverage is that they also invalidated state restrictions on municipal broadband, as if municipalities weren’t merely political subdivisions of the states. Another nail in the coffin of federalism.

    1. they also invalidated state restrictions on municipal broadband

      Interstate commerce, intrastate commerce, it’s all the same, right?

  8. Surprise! Documents Obtained by Judicial Watch Reveal Top Hillary Clinton Advisers Knew Immediately that Assault on Benghazi was Armed Attack…..ed-attack/

  9. You guys can’t fool me with this pro-gambling nonsense.

    When Biff Tannen legalized gambling in Alternate 1985, it clearly made Hill Valley a worse place. Do you want that to happen to your neighborhood?

  10. Eight Myths About FCC Regulation of the Internet…..e-internet

  11. The most honest part of the article:

    First off, the government will only legalize if it is going to get significant revenue.

    Fuck you proles, fuck freedom, fuck independence, you don’t do anything unless we get our cut. Or else.


    1. I think in gambling it’s called the vig, not the cut.

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