People want to bet on sports, and sports want people to bet on them. It’s a relationship as old as time, but it is a relationship Of Which We Shall Not Speak.
Until recently, that is.
Recently, NBA commissioner Adam Silver and Dallas Mavericks owner/Shark Tank shark Mark Cuban have spoken in support of legalized sports gambling, and now we’re all sorta looking at the NFL, waiting for it to say something.
“It’s inevitable,” Cuban told Fortune Magazine. “It will take some time for the courts to overcome the grandstanding by a few district attorneys, but once that happens I think we will see a slow but sure availability of gambling across the country.”
In November, Silver wrote an editorial in The New York Times arguing it was time to make it legal to gamble on professional sports, reversing a position held by the NBA for at least 23 years. Silver’s argument was, essentially, that prohibition never stopped anything, so we might as well tax and regulate it.
“I believe that sports betting should be brought out of the underground and into the sunlight where it can be appropriately monitored and regulated,” Silver wrote.
And yet the NFL “maintains its opposition.”
The NFL generates $80-100 billion in gambling each year, more than doubling the NBA. Granted, sports leagues are understandably reluctant to publicly acknowledge the gambling aspect of their sport’s culture. The only thing really holding sports together is the idea that the outcomes are real, and any encroachment upon that idea is dangerous. It’s easy to see why sports commissioners don’t like to talk about it.
But, guys, the cat is out of the bag. The cat’s been out of the bag so long it died in 1998.
Fantasy sports and sports gambling make sports more popular. They make boring games interesting. And they make the stats page of your website a hotspot. Yes, there is a moral argument to be made, and, yes, there are plenty of people making it, and, no, it is not stupid, old-timey nonsense.
It’s just that 44 states run lotteries, and Americans bet hundreds of billions of dollars on sports every year, and it’s time to stop pretending.
“Hopefully,” Cuban said, “the stupidity and hypocrisy in a few states will be cleared up in the courts shortly.”