Written by: Matt Shock (@shockwave_music)
Edited by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)
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The sports world is a rapidly changing one. It never stands still. Yet for years, it has been “illegal” to bet on sports in this country (unless you’re in Vegas, of course).
I think this represents a cultural reflection more than it does a well-founded governmental attitude towards “immoral” actions. (We could go further in detail here, but is that really necessary?) At any rate, the cultural attitude towards gambling has rapidly changed, and technology has played a massive role in carrying this shift.
Remember back in the day when fantasy sports were played on paper? Yeah, none of us do. A few hardcore nerds played fantasy sports back then, but the internet really made fantasy sports more accessible to everyone. Don’t believe me? Well, there is fantasy golf…so yeah…
Fantasy sports have even been modified to match our culture’s short attention span. Now, with fantasy sites like FanDuel and Draft Kings, you don’t have to wait an entire season to claim your prize because you can now participate in fantasy football leagues that last as little as a week.
What does this have to do with sports gambling? Simple. As a culture, we are fine with gambling on sports, as long as we don’t actually say that we’re gambling on sports. You find a clever nickname for sports gambling and we’re pretty much fine with it. You don’t believe me? Well let’s look at some examples.
FanDuel and Draft Kings both advertise the massive payouts that can be had if you win or even place highly in your fantasy football league. Hmmm…you put a small amount of money down for a chance at winning a big amount of money later and you may come away with nothing. Call me crazy, but that sounds an awful lot like gambling. Even better, they lure you into signing up by offering you free playing credit. (All it takes is that first hit to be addicted, right?) Let’s move on.
What about March Madness? CBS Sports sponsors a massive March Madness bracket challenge every year that promises cash payouts and prizes. ESPN and other sites host these contests as well, some for money and some for free. Last I checked, nobody has a problem with these widely popular contests, but they still are just another form of gambling.
Well let’s say you shy away from the big March Madness challenges and just settle for something smaller…enter the office pool. The cash payout is smaller, depending on the office of course, and the entry fees are typically smaller. But guess what, it’s still gambling and nobody bats an eye at it. Let’s get more specific.
Ever bet lunch on a game? Ever bet an Arizona Tea on your weekly NFL picks (maybe that’s just me)? Guess what…it’s still gambling.
The smaller the buy in, the less that our little game looks like gambling, and the less of a “moral objection” we have with what we’re doing. But somehow, when the concept of bookies and covering the spread enters into the conversation, our society suddenly treats people as if they’re selling their children’s clothing in order to place their next bet. Do some people with serious problems do this sort of thing? Sure, but surely not everyone who has laid money on a game is some degenerate. Something seems a little off here. Why the graduated scale? Either gambling is wrong or it isn’t.
Now, I’m not going to go into some sort of sermon. I’m not going to tell you that you should or shouldn’t bet on sports. I’m not even going to ask you to “please drink responsibly”. But I think it’s time that we figure out how we actually feel about this sort of thing and move forward.
I mean let’s be real for a second. Sports gambling is probably still illegal for the same reason that marijuana is still illegal in the majority of our United States. That reason: the government doesn’t have a reliable way to tax the money that changes hands. We all know the blazing speed at which the government moves, so gambling will probably remain “illegal” for quite some time (and we all know what a bang up job they’ll do with it when they finally get around to doing something…but I digress).
I say all that to say this. Deep down, if we’re being really honest with ourselves, we really don’t have a problem with gambling on sports. If anything, we’re just afraid that the people of this great country will ruin their financial security by going deeply in debt with their bookies. We’re fine with racking up a mountain of debt to buy a house we can’t afford, finance multiple vehicles that we don’t need, get a nice boat (don’t forget that boat), and borrowing out of our 401k’s to take a vacation to escape it all, but if we place a bet on one of Saturday’s football games, then suddenly we have a problem. Give me a break!
Should the floodgates of sports gambling be fully opened upon society? Frankly, I don’t really know. But acting like somebody is drowning a puppy when somebody calls their bookie is just a little bit silly, especially when we all participate in such things from time to time.
By the way, do you think Ohio State will actually cover on Saturday?