The Effects of Sports Betting Legalization in the US

Since 2018, states across the US have had the right to legalize and regulate sports betting, allowing either retail, online betting, or both. Many states have enacted their regulations on it. Allowing sports betting companies to flourish and allowing sports fans to legally wager real money on events such as March Madness, the Super Bowl, and the NBA Finals. In a short space of time, sports betting has gone from being almost completely outlawed to becoming openly accepted.

Since the change, billions of dollars have been wagered and it seems that the vast majority of Americans agreed with the Supreme Court’s decision. In addition, it’s helped to bring in increasing amounts of tax revenue to help out struggling state governments.

Virginia sports betting made the state $67 million in taxes in 2023, and many other states have made more. But what about the full effects of the legalization on sports, American people and society as a whole?

How Betting Has Affected Sports

Sports Betting

Source: cm-strategies.com

One of the main arguments against sports betting being legalized is that it could hurt sports. Placing wagers on sporting contests used to be legal across most of the country, but betting scandals helped sway public opinion. Gamblers have often sought to influence sporting results to make money, and these scandals potentially threatened to undermine the competitive aspect of sport, ruining it for fans.

In 1919, eight players from the White Sox baseball team were banned from the sport for taking bribes in exchange for throwing the World Series against the Red Sox. Betting scandals have rocked other major sports too, including college sports. The point-shaving scandal in college basketball and Boston college football scandals almost threatened to end the interest in college sports. However, these instances have certainly been limited in recent years.

After the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was passed in 1992, betting on sports was mostly restricted to Las Vegas. This made it much harder for people to conspire to fix results. The fear was that when the Supreme Court overturned this law, it could result in a return to the bad old days. However, this hasn’t been the case.

Why Match Fixing is Less of an Issue

Source: brazilian.report

These days, there’s enough money in the top levels of sports that there’s little incentive for athletes to fix results or take bribes. They would potentially be throwing away an extremely lucrative career and even college athletes can now earn money from sponsorships and endorsements. No athlete is going to take the risk that comes with fixing a game when they could earn far more simply by playing.

In addition to this, sportsbooks have gotten much smarter at spotting suspicious betting activity. These days, algorithms are used to detect potential signs of match-fixing and report large and unusual bets to the relevant authorities. While match-fixing at lower levels of sports does still happen, it’s incredibly rare and the major leagues are protected from scandals.

That said, some athletes are still getting caught out by the gambling policy of leagues that they play for. Most major leagues such as the NFL have policies that ban athletes from gambling in an effort to reduce the risk of potential scandals. Since 2018, there have been seven NFL athletes suspended for breaking this policy, while there were zero in the ten years before that.

Increased Money

Rather than harming sports, you could argue that betting has had the opposite effect. Most organizations including the NFL and NBA have official betting partners, with franchises earning money from the success of sports betting operators. This increase in funding can help make sports even more exciting for the next generation of fans.

How Sports Betting Has Affected Society

Source: bloomberg.com

Betting on sports has been around for almost as long as sports themselves, with fans all over the world enjoying the excitement of making predictions and potentially winning money. In the US, sports betting is now a much more accepted pastime and one that people can talk about openly.

Legalization has brought the concept of betting into the mainstream, meaning that anyone aged 21 and over can get started with it.

Problem Gambling

Since legalization happened, sports betting has become almost unavoidable. Sportsbook ads are now featured everywhere you look, and this has both positive and negative effects. On the one hand, people have greater access to sports betting and the freedom to spend their money how they want. On the other hand, gambling can be addictive, and the oversaturation of betting adverts could be harmful.

Some states have reported increased numbers of calls to problem gambling hotlines, and those with gambling addictions have found it increasingly difficult to avoid gambling advertising and content. Ohio reported three times more calls to its problem gambling hotline in the first month of legalizing sports betting. Some politicians have proposed bans or restrictions on gambling advertising, but this would be limited to certain states.

Athlete Abuse

Source: independent.co.uk

Aside from creating issues with problem gambling, the increased exposure to gambling has led to some new behaviors developing in US society. Athletes have reported an increase in the amount of abuse they get from fans relating to betting. For example, Kevin Durant famously called out a bettor who blamed him for losing his parlay.

“When I get ya paid, u don’t DM me and send a small percentage to my cash app but when them parlays don’t hit, I’m every name in the book. Yall ain’t real,” Durant clapped back at a fan in his DMs who gave him abuse.

The Future of Sports Betting in the US

Now that sports betting is legalized, there’s little chance of it going away anytime soon. Major companies have invested millions of dollars into the industry, helping to make it safer and more straightforward. Still, questions remain over its impact on sports and society, and whether more can be done to prevent issues such as match-fixing and problem gambling.