Sports Betting Legality Problem in The US

In addition to being largely informal, widespread and illegal, sports wagering is difficult to regulate since anyone in any state can access legal sports books via telephone or Internet. Because sports wagering is illegal in most states, reliable figures on the scope of sports gambling are difficult to find.
This Commission heard testimony that sports gambling is a serious problem which has devastated families and careers. 30 Many Americans do not know that the majority of sports wagering in America is illegal. In addition, many do not know about the risks and impacts of sports wagering and about the possible legal consequences. Even when Americans understand the illegality of sports wagering, it is easy to participate in, widely accepted, very popular, and, at present, not likely to be prosecuted.

One reason Americans may not be aware of the illegality of sports wagering is that the Las Vegas “line,” or point spread, is published in most of the 48 states where sports wagering is illegal. 31 Some have argued that the point spread is nothing more than a device that appeals to those who make or solicit bets. Critics claim that the point spread does not contribute to the popularity of sports, only to the popularity of sports wagering.

Because sports wagering is illegal in most states, it does not provide many of the positive impacts of other forms of gambling. In particular, sports wagering does not contribute to local economies or produce many jobs. Unlike casinos or other destination resorts, sports wagering does not create other economic sectors.

However, sports wagering does have social costs. Sports wagering threatens the integrity of sports, it puts student athletes in a vulnerable position, it can serve as gateway behavior for adolescent gamblers, and it can devastate individuals and careers.

It is important that the regulation of sports wagering be strengthened and enforced. Illegal sports betting should be contained in order to keep the remaining 48 states free from this form of gambling. Government and law enforcement agencies in particular could increase their efforts to deal with this area of illegal gambling.

One argument for strengthening sports wagering regulation is that athletes themselves are often tempted to bet on contests in which they participate, undermining the integrity of sporting contests. According to the findings of a University of Michigan survey on collegiate sports gambling, more than 45 percent of male collegiate football and basketball athletes admit to betting on sporting events, despite NCAA regulations prohibiting such activities. More than 5 percent of male student-athletes provided inside information for gambling purposes, bet on a game in which they participated, or accepted money for performing poorly in a game. 32

There is considerable evidence that sports wagering is widespread on America’s college campuses. Cedric Dempsey, executive director of the NCAA, asserts that “every campus has student bookies. We are also seeing an increase in the involvement of organized crime on sports wagering.” 33

Students who gamble on sports can be at risk for gambling problems later in life. There is evidence that sports wagering can act as a gateway to other forms of gambling. Therefore, it is important to understand the scope of the problem and educate students to the dangers of sports wagering. The Commission needs to know how widespread the phenomenon of underage sports gambling is now, the relationship between sports wagering and other forms of gambling, and the ways to prevent its spread. Those who attempt to draw adolescents into illegal sports wagering schemes deserve the full attention of law enforcement efforts.

30 Testimony of Mitzi Schlichter before the NGISC, Las Vegas, NV, November 10, 1998. 31 Define the point spread and Vegas “line” here. 32 The Extent and Nature of Gambling Among College Student Athletes. Michael E. Cross and Ann G. Vollano, University of Michigan Athletic Department, 1999. 33 Cited in Gary Lundy, NCAA Says Lady Vols Not Safe from