It’s time to bet on Vegas

In June 2016, the United States sports community saw something it thought had a slim to nothing chance of happening. The NHL board of governors approved a new expansion team in Sin City:  the Las Vegas Golden Knights. Shortly thereafter, the NFL voted to allow the Oakland Raiders to relocate to Las Vegas.

At one time, it would have been simply unthinkable that the NFL, a league that long held its ground against gambling, would relocate a franchise to the gambling capital of the world. But by the time the vote was collected, there was hardly any debate on the issue. Currently, it’s only legal to place sports bets in Nevada, Oregon, Delaware and Montana, but I believe sports gambling should be legalized across all 50 states.  

With the movement and creation of two professional “Big Four” sports franchises in Las Vegas, the question of legalizing sports gambling across the country has arisen yet again.

Americans spend billions of dollars on sports gambling every year, but most of the money is transferred illegally through websites, underground gambling rings or office pools. In 2015, the sports betting book in Nevada registered $4.2 billion, while the American Gambling Association estimate that Americans wagered $144.8 billion illegally during that same year.

It’s clear that wagering on sports is becoming more and more popular, which could be due to it becoming a more socially acceptable activity in the modern age. In fact, according to a poll by Seton Hall University, two out of every three Americans believe gambling on sports should be legal.

While some people think legalizing sports gambling would lead to increased gambling addiction across the country as well as referees and players fixing games, the positives totally outweigh these negatives.

Think of how many people bet on horseraces like the Triple Crown, March Madness and the Super Bowl. If someone simply puts $5 down on a sporting event, there’s increased interest in the game. This not only helps boost popularity, but it also helps television networks. More interest means more viewers and better ratings, and more viewers means higher advertising revenue, which is better business across the board.

Legalizing sports betting across the country would also assist the economy. Only 3 percent of current sports bets are being wagered legally. Most of the money is going to offshore websites and bookies while America is losing billions of dollars that could be gambled legally.

Sports wagering is a lucrative market that could pass on earnings to local and state governments. In many states (cough, cough – Illinois) experiencing budget crises and cuts in spending, sports wagering could present an opportunity for an increase in revenue. Georgia Law Review projected that sports gambling could create $1 billion in wagers and $100 million in revenue for a state if it were legalized. Opening up the books could also create hundreds – if not thousands – of jobs across the country.

All in all, sports gambling presents an opportunity for casinos to cater to a whole new source of cash flow, and the government, TV networks and fans would all benefit as well. Being able to legally put down $20 on that 15 seed in the NCAA tournament will only change sports for the better.