Cal Thomas: Gambling on sports is a bad bet

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Thursday, May 24th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from member-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher.

AUDIO: Everyone is to leave here immediately! This café is closed until further notice. Clear the room at once! How can you close me up, on what grounds? I am shocked – shocked – to find that gambling is going on in here. Your winnings, sir. Oh, thank you very much. Everybody out at once!

CAL THOMAS, COMMENTATOR: Casablanca’s Captain Renault notwithstanding, it should come as no shock that the next level of approved gambling in America is sports betting.

EICHER: Commentary now from WORLD Radio’s Cal Thomas.

THOMAS: State governments have casinos and lotteries, and plenty of other ways to separate money from the poor and vulnerable for their ravenous and bottomless coffers.

So I guess it’s just a matter of time: why wouldn’t they allow betting on sports contests?

The question should answer itself. But in our increasingly permissive culture, anything goes. The standard that right and wrong determined what best promoted the common good has gone with the wind.

The Supreme Court last week struck down a 1992 federal law that had banned most commercial sports betting. That will end up legalizing the estimated $150 billion in illegal bets on professional and amateur sports that Americans already make each year.

The decision overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which prohibited states from authorizing sports gambling. The bill’s chief sponsor was a former college and pro basketball player who’d go on to become a senator from New Jersey, Senator Bill Bradley. He said the law was needed to safeguard the integrity of sports.

Here’s what Bradley said about it at the time:

BRADLEY: I remember one game, in Madison Square Garden, toward the end of the game, and one of my teammates happened to throw the ball up — we were ahead by six or eight points, I forget which — at the other end of the court and it went in the basket! rAnd the next week, the press speculated, ‘well was this an attempt to beat the line on the game?’ It is this kind of speculation that will be fed if we put the imprimatur of the state on sports betting.

Bradley was right, though sports have been compromised over many years.

During my brief college playing career, the basketball head coach passed out “food money” after games. Players who did especially well received more food money than those who scored fewer points.

It’s gotten much worse since then.

There have been financial scandals involving thrown fights and shaved points extending back at least as far as 1919. That was the year of the so-called Black Sox scandal where eight Chicago White Sox players agreed to throw the game to benefit gamblers.

The Supreme Court decision has removed even a veil of disapproval from sports gambling and what was once reserved for Las Vegas and illicit bookies will now go national.

Already I am receiving emails inviting me to wager on various sports.

Gambling addiction has become a serious problem in America. According to the National Council on Problem Gambling, 15 percent of Americans gamble at least once per week.

Approximately 6 million adults and about half a million teens meet the criteria for problem gambling. Young people risk developing a gambling problem at a rate of about two to three times that of adults.

I could go on.

This is simply a bad bet on many levels, so to speak.

The only benefit, if you can call it that, will go to state and local governments. If this is how they decide to fund their spending habits, they’ll show how little they care for the people they govern.

For WORLD Radio, I’m Cal Thomas.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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