DE on Defense against Sports Leagues

Delaware is hitting back at the sports leagues lobbing threats in response to the state’s plan to legalize gambling on sports in the state.

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell issued a statement this past week saying sports betting plan will create jobs and help pay for government services.

Lawyers for the four major pro sports leagues and the NCAA are expected to seek an injunction this week to stop Delaware from implementing sports betting, however.

Delaware is one of only four states that are exempt from the nationwide ban on sports gambling enacted in 1992 (along with Nevada, Montana, and Oregon). These states were exempt because they already had sports gambling at the time congress drafted the legislation. Sports leagues, however, contend that Delaware’s, which offered parlay betting as part of its state lottery in the 70’s does not have the authority now to allow single-event gambling.

First of all, the federal ban on gambling should be thrown out with a whole lot of other dirty rotten laws surrounding gambling that should never have been enacted. The reason gambling on sports should be legalized is NOT because it would increase tax revenue or jobs for states.  The reason is because it is not the role of the American government to enforce morality, to tell them what they can and can’t do in the privacy of their homes (so long as they aren’t violating the rights of others), nor is it the role of the American legal system to ensure that athletic competition in the country retains a reputation for fair play. That is the crux of the sports leagues’ and anti-gamblers’ argument: if gambling on sports is legalized, the integrity of the games can be questioned by spectators. New Jersey, which was not one of the four states granted an exemption from the federal ban, filed a lawsuit against the Justice Department to overturn the ban for the whole country.

Late last week came word that Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) wrote a letter to US Attorney-General Eric Holder, asking him to vigorously oppose a suit challenging the Federal law banning the expansion of state licensed and regulated sports wagering in New Jersey, brought by the Interactive Media Entertainment & Gaming Association (iMEGA).

“We are writing to express our concern regarding the efforts in both Delaware and New Jersey to challenge Congress’ consistent and long-held prohibitions on sports wagering,” the senators wrote to Holder. “While the efforts in these two states vary, they both threaten to greatly expand sports gambling and undermine the integrity of our national pastimes. We urge the Department of Justice to defend and enforce the existing federal prohibition against sports betting and take the necessary action to safeguard amateur and professional sports.”

Secondly, a ban on sports gambling just won’t work. Will corruption run rampant throughout the league if gambling on sports is legalized?  Most likely not. Sports betting is widely (and legally) available throughout Nevada. While the sports leagues have a policy of opposing this gambling they do little to actually try and stop it. Furthermore, making gambling illegal is very unlikely to deter players from engaging in corruption. One of the biggest scandals related to sports betting occurred during the 1919 world series of baseball, during which several disgruntled members of the White Sox, angry about their low wages, made a deal with a local bookie and threw the series to the Cincinnati Reds.  Those players eventually confessed and were banned for life from major league baseball.

But even if the legalization of sports betting did result in corruption among players and the deterioration of professional or amateur sports leagues’ images, so what? It is NOT the job of taxpayer funded entities like the court system to ensure the football we watch on TV isn’t rigged.

Criminalizing gambling on sports is not going to prevent corruption in sports just like criminalizing drug use won’t stop drug use (in sports and elsewhere).  If players want to  risk their careers by throwing a game to earn extra money–they are going to do it whether the gamblers profiting off the move are gambling legally or illegally. If professional or amateur leagues want to have the appearance of legitimacy it is their duty to find a way to do this on their own with their own money. Of course, there is no reason why major league sports couldn’t profit even amidst accusations of unfair play (look at the WWF that has done very well despite the fact that most people believe matches are choreographed).  If a player breaks a contract by throwing a game the team owner has every right to take that player to court–that’s what laws and courts are for.

End the injustice, end the hypocrisy, end the ban on sports betting.