Sports gambling has been a controversial topic for quite some time now. There is arguments on both sides for whether to make it legal or illegal in the United States. Currently, it is legal in four states: Nevada, Delaware, Montana, and Oregon. It is most popular in Las Vegas, Nevada because there large amount of casinos. Although it is legal in these four states, I think it should be illegal in all states because there is many negative effects. Sports gambling takes away from the sport, increases crime, leads to large amounts of debt, and increase rates of suicide.
True fans want to see their team win, but gamblers get upset if their team doesn’t win by enough points to cover the point spread. Seeing your favorite sports team should be exciting, regardless of many points they win by. Some athletes also feel like gambling is taking away from the game. NBA Hall of Famer and former US Senator Bill Bradley recalls a game that many fans were betting on, “We were ahead by five points or so, the opponent hit a basket to cut the lead to three points, and I heard cheering,” Bradley said of the seemingly meaningless basket as the game was ending. “I asked why, and someone said they were cheering because [the other team] covered the point spread … I know that when I was a player, I certainly didn’t like the idea of being a roulette chip” (Bernal). Of course there are athletes that enjoy the gambling because it means more money for them, but there is still some that play for the love of the sport, not to make the biggest profit they can.
Some argue that legalizing sports gambling would actually decrease crime but there have been many studies that argue otherwise. According to the Global International Center for Security, criminals are using betting on sports events to launder $140 billion each year (Pretot). Also, about 60% of those addicted to gambling will commit crimes. Economists found that by the fifth year of a casino’s existence robbery was increased by 136% and aggravated theft was increased by 91%. Also, 44% of Illinois Gamblers Anonymous stole from work to pay for gambling debts (Casino Watch). Although sports gambling alone doesn’t increase crime, making it legal will increase crime because it will give people more opportunities for gambling.
Problem gamblers incur huge amounts of debt from sports gambling because it can be addicting and some people don’t know when to stop. They just keep charging their credit card until they reach their limit and realize they won’t be able to pay it back. A problem gambling center in Massachusetts says on average, they normally get calls from people claiming they are about $10,000 to $25,000 in debt (Purdum). That seems like a lot but the average debt for the U.S. is actually between $63,000 and $110,000. About 20% of addicted gamblers have actually filed for bankruptcy. Also, studies show that two out of three pathological gamblers commit crimes to pay off debt or to continue gambling (Casino Watch). In some ways, gambling is actually usually harder to recover from and quit than it is for addicts of alcohol or drugs. As Keith Whyte, the National Council of Problem Gamblers Executive points out, “If you stop drinking, you can still go get a job, but once you’ve got gambling debt twice your annual income, it’s hard to come back from that. In our society, living without money is a lot harder than living without alcohol” (Wright). Not only are gamblers putting themselves in debt, but they are also costing the U.S. between $32.4 billion and $53.8 billion a year and the overall cost to taxpayers is about $56,000 for each problem gambler (Casino Watch). If sports gambling was illegal, less people may become addicted and incur debt for both themselves and the rest of the U.S.
Addicted gamblers often become depressed from being in debt, which sometimes causes them to attempt or think about suicide. According to Alternet, 1 in 5 problem gamblers try to commit suicide (about twice the rate of other addiction), while about 80% think about suicide (Wright). Another source says the rate of attempted suicide among compulsive gamblers is 200 times the national average (Casino Watch). The reason for this is most likely due to the amount of debt problem and compulsive gamblers face. Money is important in our society and without it, some people see no meaning to life. Family members of gamblers are also more likely to commit suicide.
Although many may argue that sports gambling can increase revenue, it could in some senses but that doesn’t weigh out the negative effects and externalities. Many casinos and other sports betting facilities only care about making a profit, they don’t think about what could happen to people if gambling is took too far. In order to decrease and eventually eliminate the negative effects, sports gambling should be illegal in all states.
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