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How views on sports betting have changed

28th April 2021 Print

In 1992, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), was passed. The national law outlawed sports betting across the country with the exception of four states that already had legalized sports betting and were thus grandfathered in with the legislation. PASPA remained law until 2018 when the supreme court ruled the law unconstitutional and struck it down.

Early Sports Gambling Bans

Sports and gambling go hand in hand, for better or worse. Whenever sports are present, you will have people who want to put money on the game. That desire always finds a path to fulfillment. The only real difference is that sometimes that path is a legal one, and other times, it is not.

Gambling has been a part of the United States of America since its inception. The revolutionary war was partially funded by taxes on lotteries in the original colonies. Gambling grew along in popularity as the nation expanded. While there was always opposition from various groups and individuals, gambling was a thriving industry.

Then, in the early 20th century, pushback against gambling began to gain steam. Things boiled over after the infamous 1919 Black Sox scandal. Accusations that eight players from the 1919 White Sox World Series team were paid bribes to throw the series, resulted in a lifetime ban for all eight players from Major League Baseball.

The ramifications of the event would reach far outside of the baseball world, however. States began cracking down on gambling in general and sports gambling in particular. In the mid-1930's Nevada broke with the anti-gambling trend and began to legalize various forms of gambling in the states. However, sports betting remained illegal in the state until 1949.

While a few other states would legalize various forms of sports gambling over the coming decades, Nevada remained the only state with non-restrictive sports betting.

The acceptability of sports betting began to cycle with a further crackdown on sports betting in the '60s. Then things loosened up in the '70s and '80s before PASPA passed in 1992.

Passing PASPA

The passing of PASPA was a big statement from the federal government. Until that point, sports betting had been completely regulated on a state-by-state basis. However, PASPA signaled a national condemnation of sports gambling. While it banned sports betting for most of the country, the four states with some form of legal sports betting already on the books were allowed to keep operating with business as usual.

New Jersey also had the option under PASPA to legalize sports betting within a year but failed to do so. Later challenges from the state would be what eventually led to the repeal of PASPA.

Current Views

The days since PASPA passed have changed many minds when it comes to the legalization of sports betting. What is the main factor that has caused this change of perspective? The internet. The internet has increased the frequency of sports betting exponentially. Most sources for online sports gambling were operating on a level of highly questionable legality.

In fact, in 2006, Congress passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) in an attempt to curb all forms of online gambling, which had already become a booming enterprise. 

The national attitude towards sports betting has changed dramatically with online gambling. When you remove the shady characters from view, sports betting becomes a lot more acceptable. Getting information about a matchup through live odds software sounds much more wholesome than going through a guy at a bar. Aside from the views of individuals, the governmental perspective regarding sports betting has largely shifted as well. 

In the short time since PASPA was repealed, over a dozen states have already legalized sports betting, and more are likely to soon follow.

Big Picture

It has become clear that sports betting will not go away through legal action. Instead, it just drives the bettors down unregulated illegal venues. The states don't receive any taxes for the bets, which is a huge untapped revenue stream, and the main reason so many states have legalized sports betting now that the option is available.

The other big argument against sports betting is that allowing it increases the likelihood of fixed matches. However, this has been widely debunked, and it is, in fact, the opposite. The more regulations you have on sports gambling, the more difficult it is for people to manipulate the outcome. When all of the gambling is controlled by criminal enterprises, rigging the competitions become far easier.

Sports betting may very well see another cycle as it has in the past century, but it seems unlikely. There will surely be some pushback. However, it appears we have reached a point as a nation where we have moved past the point of no return. Sports betting will not only likely remain legal in the states that have already made a move in that direction, but legality will likely continue to spread.

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