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Should the U.S. Legalize Sports Gambling?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on September 11, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Yes, yes, we've all heard the slogan before -- What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. And much of what happens in Vegas, i.e., the gambling, can only happen in Vegas. And other places in Nevada. And Atlantic City. And at horse tracks. And off track betting sites. And in fantasy leagues. And pretty much everywhere, to the tune of $95 billion estimated to be gambled just on the NFL and college football this season.

So is it time the United States caught up with other countries and legalized sports betting?

I Bet You Don't Know the Rules

Between federal and state gambling laws, the country is one big grey area when it comes to differentiating legal and illegal sports betting. Legal wagering on games is restricted to Nevada, Atlantic City, and some Native American casinos; fantasy baseball is OK; fantasy football depends on the state; most states allow horse racing; fewer allow dog racing; March Madness pools are pretty much illegal; the World Cup is an international competition, but it all depends on where you place your bets; and online is a no-no (although some fantasy websites may be above board).

This hodgepodge of gambling laws doesn't do consumers any favors. Is picking up a few Green Bay Packers in your daily fantasy league really that different than placing $20 down on them to beat the Lions? And restricting legality to particular zip codes seems nonsensical.

Money Money Money Money ... Money!

As ESPN points out, a fully developed legal American market -- where bets are placed at casinos, online, and at retail bookmaking shops -- would produce $12.4 billion in annual revenue. That's quite a chunk of change that can be shared through taxes and regulation. New Jersey has been battling for legal sports betting for years, only to run into resistance from the NCAA, NFL, and other pro sports leagues.

The main argument against legalized sports gambling is that it could create an incentive for players to alter the outcomes of games. But considering that around 96 percent of all sports betting in America is done illegally, the money and incentive is probably already there, just in harder-to-monitor places.

Maybe it's time to bring sports gambling, and the revenue it can generate, out of the dark and into the light.

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