Sports

Sports Betting Pays Off

The first major intersection of college basketball and legal sports betting seems to have been a completely clean affair.

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The annual March Madness college basketball tournament has long been associated with sports betting, thanks to ubiquitous but technically illegal bracket pools in offices and bars. But this year's tournament was different.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the entire event was played in Indiana. It was the first time that the NCAA had held any part of its biggest annual event in a state with legal sports betting—a reversal from previous NCAA policy. That's a big deal not because of what happened but because of what didn't.

This year's NCAA basketball tournament, which concluded on April 5 with Baylor University claiming its first national championship by throttling previously undefeated Gonzaga University, was not marred by scandal or corruption. There were no reports of thrown games or bribed refs. Contrary to the fears underlying the NCAA's longstanding policy, the first major intersection of college basketball and legal sports betting seems to have been a completely clean affair.

For years, anti-gambling scolds warned that legal betting would be a disaster for sports leagues and especially for college athletics. Because college players are unpaid amateurs, the argument went, they would be easy marks for bookmakers trying to influence game outcomes.

"Professional and amateur sports leagues need to recognize that legalized sports gambling will put both the lives and livelihoods of their athletes at risk," John Kindt, a University of Illinois business administration professor who has testified against legalized gambling in multiple states, warned in 2018. That was just before the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a 1992 federal law that effectively banned sports betting outside of Nevada. Maintaining that ban, he argued at the time, was a "national imperative."

The longtime Washington Post sports columnist Thomas Boswell worried that legal sports betting would "turn our arenas, stadiums, and ballparks into new kinds of casinos." The "most disgusting" part, he wrote in a 2018 column, was that "sports-gambling pushers will come right out in daylight, not even pull a gun, and say that they would love to assist in creating a world" where you can bet on everything from the outcome of a game "to whether the next free throw will be made or not."

You couldn't quite do that during the Baylor-Gonzaga national title game in April. But some legal sportsbooks accepted bets on how many three-point shots the two teams would make. No guns were involved in those legal and voluntary transactions.

Gambling has always been a part of sports, and black-market bookmakers have played a role in some of the worst scandals in athletic history, from the infamous "Black Sox" who threw the 1919 World Series to the NBA games marred by corrupt referee Tim Donaghy, who was busted in 2007 for a long history of fixing matches. But rather than creating more opportunities for such skulduggery, legalized sports betting likely helps ensure the integrity of the games.

During this year's March Madness, for example, the NCAA and the Indiana Gaming Commission worked with third-party vendors to track betting patterns and identify "irregularities" that might indicate something amiss. The data necessary to do that aren't available when gambling takes place in black markets.

"There is nothing criminals like more than a large, unregulated betting market where they can prey on vulnerable people who have no other options," says Michelle Minton, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute who studies vice issues. "It really isn't surprising that bringing sports betting out from under the rug hasn't led to increased problem gambling, corruption, or crime."

Someday there will inevitably be another scandal involving sports betting. But the rapid expansion of legal betting—26 states and Washington, D.C., now allow it, just three years after the federal ban was struck down—has set up a massive, real-world experiment in the legalization of behavior that was previously forbidden in nearly every state.

What if we gave Americans more freedom and nothing bad happened? That's a bet more politicians should be willing to make.

NEXT: Brickbat: The Big Cover-Up

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  1. While I agree that betting on sports and all gambling in general should be legal, this isn't yet good evidence that no effect will be had. The problems for the game that might develop due to gambling (throwing games for bigger profits) would not be instantaneous. They'd take some time for people to to be tempted and the incentives to fly develop.

    1. Sigh, if you all can't tell from the frequent word salad I post. I'm typing on my phone, and for some fucking reason it likes to insert random words into my sentences sometimes.

    2. Well no, but it does demonstrate that the result of permitting gambling is not instantaneous disaster.

      1. No widespread corruption.

      2. And who has ever made that claim?

  2. It's hard to imagine bookies and gamblers could make the NCAA and its system of mulcting "student athletes" more corrupt than it already is.

  3. While I agree that betting on sports and all gambling in general should be legal
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  4. They played that badly and it wasn’t on purpose???

  5. We all know that when gambling is illegal athlets never throw games to make money

  6. There were no widespread reports of thrown games or bribed refs.

    FTFY

  7. The shocking thing is that the NCAA played the tournament in a Red State notorious for selling firearms - no questions asked - to murderers from all over the country. No doubt, thousands will die in our cities because basketball fans brought guns home from the basketball tournament. NCAA needs to remove all sporting events to a country where they have no 2nd amendment.

    1. No doubt, thousands will die in our cities because basketball fans brought guns home from the basketball tournament.

      You just made me a basketball fan.

  8. Dumb article. What does one year prove?

    1. That legalized sports betting is at least as reliable as betting through a mob front.

    2. Since the law was passed three years ago and there hasn't been any hysteria of thrown games (ASU in 1997) or bribed refs, it is not a one year track record. The ASU scandal was uncovered by the legal sports books that noted an anomaly in the betting patterns.

  9. "The first major intersection of college basketball and legal sports betting seems to have been a completely clean affair."

    Just like the 2020 election. Thanks, COVID!

    1. I wonder if anybody even investigated anything here, or if Boehm is claiming victory from unrelenting ignorance instead.

      It was also a good year for my city in the fact that no jaywalking occurred. Sure you seem them every day, but nobody was actually cited. Completely clean affair.

  10. Kenesaw Mountain Landis has his own wing in Hades.

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  12. tournament in a Red State notorious for selling firearms – no questions asked – to murderers from all over the country. No doubt, thousands will die in our cities because basketball fans brought guns home from the basketball tournament. NCAA needs to remove all sporting events to a country where they have no 2nd amendment.
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  13. Oh, if you're into sports betting, play online these days at kubet: https://kubet24h.net

  14. Like a lot of similar endeavours, it starts with research. Read as much as you can on the theory behind sports betting (Joseph Buchdahls books are good for this).

    If that hasn't put you off then do more research, find out who the best sports bettors are (various sources for this kind of information). Work out what kind of sports bettor do you want to be (arbitrage, matched betting, trading, scalping, straight betting etc etc etc).

    If you do all of that, then start small and be prepared to lose money. Experiment, track your results (get pretty good at using spreadsheets) and see how you go.

    Persistence is key but you also need to set limits. How much are you prepared to lose before you stop is a question you should ask yourself and the answer should be impossible to shake.

    Sports betting isn't easy, winning money from sports betting is even harder. The bookies would love it if you went in unprepared and they will do your best to cut you off if you start winning.

    It's not an easy life but if you can avoid the attention of the bookies and beat the markets then you can make some good money doing it.

    In my spare time, in addition to sports betting, I like to play online slot machines. I trust my friends, and we are constantly exchanging information about new and old online platforms, since we are all passionate about gambling to some extent. It helps that we know a few more tips and tricks that can tell us if an online casino is legal or not, such as checking licenses or checking if they have known developers making games for them.
    But if you want to find something new, I would suggest taking a look at this site https://slots-money.com/play-mobile-slots-online-for-money
    They offer a large selection of slot machines, a user-friendly interface, and whatnot ...
    This is a website that I use all the time, and I can safely recommend it to anyone who wants to try their luck at slot machines.

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