Feature

Lift the ban on betting

An estimated $300 billion is bet on games each year—a rich source of tax revenues for state governments.

James Surowiecki
The New Yorker

Did you commit a crime this month? asked James Surowiecki. If you engaged in the “all-American pastime” of betting on the Super Bowl, chances are you did. In 1992, Congress passed a wrongheaded federal law that banned sports betting everywhere in the U.S. except in the four states that already allowed it (Nevada, Delaware, Oregon, and Montana). Lawmakers figured that legalized gambling would make people suspect that games were being fixed, thus harming professional sports leagues. But in fact “the ban on sports betting does exactly what Prohibition did. It makes criminals rich.” Point shaving would be easier to spot if gambling were legal, and the volume of wagers already being placed suggests that legal betting would only make sports more popular. An estimated $300 billion is bet on games each year—a rich source of tax revenues for state governments. New Jersey voters approved legal betting in 2011, and now the state is being sued for breaching the federal ban. I’m hoping the case will end with the judge overturning the law “as an unconstitutional infringement on states’ rights.” If we’re lucky, it will happen in time for March Madness. 

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