There is an uneasy relationship between sports and betting in the United States. The powerful sporting leagues are firmly against legalising sports betting, yet they accept lucrative sponsorship deals from gambling firms and even actively encourage fantasy sports betting.
There is also growing awareness that people do want to wager on sporting events as a means of participating more closely in them.
There is a thriving illegal market in sports betting that is estimated to be worth $150 billion and it far outstrips the measly $216 million bet legally on sports.
The reluctance to allow betting on sports stems from a fear that it will lead to match fixing and other irregularities that will erode fans’ support for sports.
Indeed, there have been quite a few scandals involving dishonest athletes and officials; the Black Sox Scandal that took place in the 1919 World Series is one that America has never forgotten even though it took place almost a century ago.
However, this stance is no doubt costing the American government very dearly in missed taxes.
The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) was passed in 1992 and it bans betting on sports in the US, with a few exceptions.
In addition, the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act was passed into law in 2006 to outlaw the practice of accepting wagers over the internet.
However, the fact that sports betting has become a reality in most parts of the world cannot have gone unnoticed.
In any case, attitudes towards gambling in the US have begun to change. Many states in the US have already begun to associate themselves with gambling, something that was unthinkable a few decades ago.
There are casinos in 41 different states today and the business of gambling is booming at $250 billion.
Besides, many states also promote lotteries. Many churches are also associated with bingo, which is another form of gambling.
There seems to be a slow, yet perceptible change in public and government opinion concerning legalising sports betting.
The NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver raised more than a few eyebrows when he wrote an article in the New York Times in November 2014 making a strong case for legalising sports wagering.
After all, this is the only way it can be regulated properly and the system can be protected from abuses.
It has to be admitted that many of the concerns voiced by opponents of legalising sports betting are valid and they have to be addressed before the issue can be taken forward.
It has to be noted that the US has a thriving sports culture at the high school and college level and that there is intense competition here.
While it is very unlikely that pro athletes will risk their fat pay cheques and reputations to make extra money, this could very well happen at lower levels of the sport.
A few states are willing to take on the powerful NFL and other sports leagues in a bid to increase their cash flows by making sports betting legal.
However, they need to proceed with caution in order to avoid any abuses that might corrupt sports in the nation.
So, what’s your take on this? Do you also feel sports betting needs to be legalised in the US? Share your comments below.