With online poker legislation being considered in numerous states and Daily Fantasy Sports exploding in popularity in recent years, one question keeps coming up among commentators. Why is sports betting still prohibited and stigmatized throughout the country, other than in Nevada?
The image of the mob and shady bookmakers may still come to mind for older generations of Americans, but the younger generations have poker and fantasy sports apps on their phones. Furthermore, news travels faster in 2016 than ever before, making it far easier for the public to know which sites are trustworthy or not.
And it's not like sports betting is never talked about on mainstream media. Just turn on ESPN TV or radio and listen to all of the talk on point spreads for professional and college sports. Each NFL game has an "Info Center" page with betting trends and odds, and ESPN Insider subscribers have access to even more gambling information.
Vegas oddsmakers and the betting public arguably control the entire conversation of some games. Should Alabama be a 7-point favorite to win the CFP in 2016? Which quarterback has the best prop betting odds to win the Super Bowl MVP?
Even further, the Vegas oddsmakers are taking the smallest portion of the overall betting pie – $4 billion were bet on sports in Las Vegas, compared to another $95 billion spent on sports betting throughout the world – much of which would be considered illegal by US lawmakers.
It's time for US legislators to stop listening to the major sports leagues and NCAA, who have taken the position that betting on sports will dilute the integrity of their games. If these leagues want to prohibit their own athletes from gambling, so be it – leagues can and should have codes of conduct for players, coaches, and owners.
But for the rest of us, the gambling public, continuing to outlaw sports betting is nonsensical. Daily Fantasy Sports have thrust gambling into the front of mind for many sports fans, and the leagues actively encourage it. Also, the fact that everyone is doing it means the law is essentially nullified in the minds and actions of many sports fans.
In the end, it's all about the money here. If the leagues could get a piece of the gambling pie, they would be all for sports betting. It's the reason Nevada banned daily fantasy sites – to discourage competition with the legalized sportsbook industry that already operates there.
It's time to move towards legalization of sports betting throughout the country. After all, it would be just the latest case of politicians following the example of the public, while finally taking a stand against the politically powerful Nevada sportsbooks and the major sports leagues.