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December 13th, 2018

Insight

Gambling on sports is a bad bet

Cal Thomas

By Cal Thomas

Published May 24,2018

Gambling on sports is a bad bet

"I am shocked, shocked, to find that gambling is going on in here." -- Captain Renault, "Casablanca"

Human nature being what it is it should come as no shock that the next level of approved gambling in America is sports betting. States already have casinos, the lottery and other ways of separating money from the weak for their ravenous and bottomless coffers, so why not allow betting on sports contests?

The question should answer itself, but in our increasingly permissive culture where anything goes and the standard that once delineated right from wrong and measured what best promoted the common good has gone with the wind.

The Supreme Court last week struck down a 1992 federal law that had effectively banned commercial sports betting in most states. That, according to the New York Times, opens the door "...to legalizing the estimated $150 billion in illegal wagers on professional and amateur sports that Americans make every year."

The law the decision overturned -- the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act -- prohibited states from authorizing sports gambling. Among its sponsors was Sen. Bill Bradley (D-NJ), a former college and professional basketball player. He said the law was needed to safeguard the integrity of sports.

Bradley was right, though sports have been compromised for many years. During my brief college playing career, the basketball head coach passed out "food money" after games. Players who did especially well received more food money than those who scored fewer points. It's gotten much worse since then.

There have been financial scandals involving thrown fights and shaved points extending back at least as far as the Black Sox scandal of 1919 where some Chicago White Sox players agreed to throw games to benefit gamblers.

The Supreme Court decision has removed even a veil of disapproval from sports gambling and what was once reserved for Las Vegas and illicit bookies will now go national. Already I am receiving emails inviting me to wager on various sports.

Gambling addiction has become a serious problem in America. According to the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG), 15 percent of Americans gamble at least once a week.

Approximately two percent to three percent of Americans meet the criteria for problem gambling. That's around 6 million adults and about a half million teens.

Young people risk developing a gambling problem at a rate of about two to three times that of adults, and approximately 6 percent of college students in America have a gambling problem.

NCPG research says roughly 40 percent of people with a gambling problem started gambling before the age of 17.

If that isn't enough, consider these statistics:

• NCPG notes the annual cost associated with gambling (crime, addiction and bankruptcy) is $17 billion.

• Approximately 76 percent of problem gamblers are likely to have a major depressive disorder.

• The NPCG also says children of problem gamblers are at higher risk for a number of behaviors, including problem gambling, tobacco use and drug use.

• Oregon Problem Gambling Resource states that about 10 percent to 17 percent of children of problem gamblers and about 25 percent to 50 percent of spouses of problem gamblers have been abused.

Georgia State University (GSU) estimates that about 50 percent of problem gamblers commit crimes, and about two-thirds of those crimes were directly related to the gambling.

• GSU also notes that 73 percent of people who are incarcerated are identified as problem gamblers.

An Australian study found that one in five suicidal patients had a gambling problem.

Players, who make less than astronomical salaries might be tempted by gamblers to perform at sub-par levels in exchange for payments.

This is a bad bet on many levels, except for state and local governments, which will show they care less about the effects on people and more about all the additional tax money they will take in.

Cal Thomas, America's most-syndicated columnist, is the author of 10 books.

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