Four states had legal sports betting on their books in 1992 when the federal government banned states from the bookmaker business and protected existing legal sports betting in Nevada, Montana, Oregon, and Delaware.
Of those states, Nevada has a driving sports betting business, while the other three had various forms of lottery games involving sports. In May, Delaware tried to join Nevada in getting a piece of the estimated $400 billion wagered annually, legally and illegally, on professional and college sports. That attempt was thwarted in August when a federal appeals court in Philadelphia ruled that sports betting in the First State would violate a 1992 federal ban.
The crux of the appeals court decision was that the failed Delaware sports lottery in 1976 did not constitute sufficient precedent to allow the grandfather clause of the 1992 law to apply. So, at least for now, sports betting legal in the United States will not grow outside of Nevada sportsbooks and various forms of horse and dog racing.
It is worth discussing the implications of widespread sports betting for the African American community. Although the Super Bowl is the most heavily wagered sporting event with an estimated $10 billion to change hands, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is believed to rank second, with an estimated $6 to $7 billion wagered legally and illegally. .
While Super Bowl players are in many cases millionaires earning millions of thousands of dollars from their playoff careers, NCAA men’s basketball players have no salary, often no family money and, in some eyes, are ready to be taken by the players. About three out of four are African American. Are college basketball players in particular prone to being influenced by players, and are college athletes in general more at risk due to the fact that the reward for playing college sports is very different than the reward a professional athlete receives from His sport?
Mitch, 52, a regular visitor to Las Vegas sportsbooks during March Madness and who played guard on the UC Irvine basketball team in the 1970s, doesn’t think so. “Personally, I think it’s very difficult for an individual in a team sport to execute a point deduction scam. While possible, I don’t think the risk justifies future regulation of legal sports betting.”
The facts seem to confirm Mitch. While there have been on-and-off betting scandals, particularly in college basketball, since about 1950, there has been no increase in well-known point-shaving scandals, even as money bet has grown exponentially in the past decade.
The last confrontation occurred in the early 1990s and involved North Carolina State player Charles Shackleford, who is African-American. ABC News reported that during the 1987-88 season, as many as four NC State players, including forward Shackleford, conspired to hold down scores from four games in exchange for cash payments from a New Jersey contractor. According to the report, one of the games was on March 6, 1988 against Wake Forest. NC State defeated Wake Forest by four points, after being favored by 16. According to Shackleford’s attorney and agent, Sal DiFazio, Shackleford never shaved the points, though he admitted to receiving $65,000 from two men. Shackelford said the money was a loan.
The notoriety did not affect Shackleford’s career prospects. He played six seasons in the NBA with the Nets, 76ers, Timberwolves and Hornets; in addition to several seasons in Europe. Would an NBA team employ a non-star person if the team believed they couldn’t be trusted to play honestly?
Jeff, an executive recruiter in Southern California, has played fantasy football and baseball for years and is fluent in the language of point differentials. His point of view is pragmatic and optimistic. “It is true that the legalization of gambling will make it much more accessible, but the solution does not lie in controlling access. The expanded spectrum of gambling is an ideal example of one of our greatest challenges (and opportunities) as a society; we must emphasize the importance of ethical behavior in all aspects of our lives and activities, and we must be able to look to our sports heroes as the example to follow”.
The bottom line: Gambling is a fact of life in American society and sports, whether legal or illegal. Unpaid, less wealthy, often African American; College athletes may be at greater risk, but with the vast majority of games on television, they are also being watched more closely than ever before. Legal sports betting is simply a vehicle for states to get a cut during tough financial times. The risk of players shaving points or dumping games is neither greater nor less, regardless of whether the action is taxable or part of a black market economy.