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Sports gambling: Bet on it

February 19, 2019

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Should major sports athletes be prohibited from betting on major league games? Consider the answer through this lens.

“Show me the money.” Those four words proved to be a rhythmic scene stealer in the 1996 Tom Cruise film “Jerry McGuire,” for which Cuba Gooding Jr. won the best supporting actor Oscar.

Sure, the love stories between Mr. Cruise and Renee Zellweller, and Mr. Gooding and Regina King made it a laugh-out-loud rom-com. But the fact that Mr. Gooding’s character, an NFL wide receiver, demanded from Mr. Cruise’s character, a sports agent, one single thing rings the same bell today and that’s because states want sports gambling operators to show them the money now that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that federal law had overreached.

If you’re a supporter of the ruling, gratitude is due in large part to New Jersey, where then-Gov. Chris Christie filed the initial case. At the time, Atlantic City casinos, including Donald Trump’s, were losing revenue as other states and American Indian tribes were opening gambling sites. The D.C. area gambled, too, with Maryland’s Potomac River site, where MGM National Harbor is raking in the dough.

The lure is not merely the MGM brand, which is world renown and a sports draw in Las Vegas, which is America’s original “Sin City.” It’s also a sugar-sweet draw because people love to gamble. Now, by people, do not exclude team owners, athletes or underage youths.

And that’s where the “do not cross,” double yellow lines must be marked.

During an NBA All-Star pregame interview Sunday, NBA commish Adam Silver characterized those lines as “regulations” (and I chuckled when I heard him).

Understand, it’s laughable because gamblers know professional major-league sports are rigged. They know the house always wins. Repeat: The house always wins.

So what could possibly change the odds, the over-and-under if, say, a superstar NBA point guard plays with a bum knee that only the team doctor and owner are aware of? Should they and the player be permitted to gamble on the game?

Suppose an NHL dynamo has a bone spur in his foot? Three teammates find out. Should they be allowed to bet on their playoff games even though none of the games will be played in the state in which they legally reside?

Let’s not dwell on Major League Baseball, which has long been scandalized. A century ago, the Chicago White Sox dirtied the sport with the “Black Sox” scandal during the World Series. (Exonerate Pete Rose, you say?)

Anyway, MLB said in a statement that allowing pro sports gambling “will have profound effects” on its sport.

The NFL said, “Congress has long recognized the potential harms posed by sports betting to the integrity of sporting contests.”

Ah, cause and effect. Potential harm to the “integrity” of competitive pro sports.

Cheating is a more accurate substitution.

The refs at the last Super Bowl tossed the game.

Boxers throw matches and not only those in the imagination of filmmaker Quentin Tarantino.

Athletes and team staffs can cheat and defame the integrity of professional sports if they are allowed to wager.

Indeed, athletes and others could be “ghost” bettors know, for all we know.

They can go through third and fourth parties to bet, and, in some states, they already can bet on themselves. Floyd Mayweather has said he bets on himself. Smart wagers for certain (and why my nickname for him is “Maymoney”).

Listen, boxing and wrestling, horse racing, and dog and chicken fighting are popular American pastimes, and that’s a fact. NASCAR is what it is and always will be.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League and Major League Baseball are all concerned, and they should be.

And that’s because states already are promising to use the new revenue for education and roads as they did with lottery revenue.

However, unless and until laws and regulations are in place to, sort of, outlaw team players and staff from wagering, the window of opportunity should be very slight.

Like Mr. Gooding, states are grooving to the line “show me the money,” and they don’t care about the integrity of the games.

And know what else? They won’t be too concerned when they find out their significant others or kids used their credit cards and bank accounts to gamble.

As for major league sports’ houses, they’ll never be the same. They bet the bank on TV ratings.

Oh well, guess they now want to be shown the money, too.

⦁ Deborah Simmons can be contacted at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.