Not too long ago, as football fans, we took in our mornings with newspaper box scores or ESPN’s bottom line. Slowly over the years, it was replaced by reading fantasy football blurbs on Twitter and scanning the betting lines in our sportsbook apps.
Suddenly, games that once had no stake other than for our pure enjoyment became events we sweat out because of fantasy and betting implications. Whether you look to gambling as an added bonus to sports or a slippery slope, there’s a face behind it to blame or praise.
This face sits amongst a valley in the Nevada desert. A city that truly runs around the clock. Home to Raiders, Knights and the degenerates inside each of us.
It’s Vegas, baby.
It makes sense that a singular city is noted as the home of today’s sports betting opening lines when you consider that they had a 66-year head start. Albeit a 10 percent tax, sports betting first became legal in Nevada in 1951. Once the tax was lowered to two percent, the first sportsbook located within a casino opened for business at the Union Plaza in 1975. The book was overseen by premier oddsmaker, Bob Martin, who is credited with inventing the “half-point line,” thus eradicating ties with bettors.
It wasn’t until 2018 – 35 years after Las Vegas lowered the tax to .25 percent – that single-game sports betting became legal outside of Nevada. Today, there are now oddsmakers all over the world, and it is dominated by the East Coast and offshore as much as Vegas. However, the opening lines for college football begin at Circa Sportsbook in Las Vegas, and many refer to the consensus lines as “Vegas.”
If you’ve ever been to Sin City, you’ve likely seen how it embodies this sports betting mentality. The culture moves as quickly as it does continuously. Ray bans, Gucci belts and Rolexes symbolize the capital of the bets being placed.
And while this culture helps fuel a growing economy for sports creators – even this columnist – like everything once black-marketed industry, there is a downside to it too. One that directly impacts it’s game and viewers.
Side Effects of Sports Betting
Unnecessary Stress: Most of our daily lives can be stressful enough. Sports are often used as an escape from those daily stressors. But when money is on the line, it can just become one more thing to trigger our worries. If you’re someone who deals with higher stress levels at work or in your home life, I recommend not consistently putting skin in the game
Greater Chance for Collusion: Most major sports leagues have harsh penalties for players and personnel betting on games. Pete Rose was maybe the most notable martyr after baseball banned him for good following a 1989 investigation.
Calvin Ridley’s name became tainted with football fans alike as he was banned for the entire upcoming 2022 season after placing bets on his team and others while sitting out due to mental health concerns.
The more popular sports betting becomes, the more the integrity of football becomes at stake. Hopefully, Ridley will serve as a stark warning to those ever wanting to tamper with games. But it’s hard to imagine he’ll be the last incident to occur.
The Possibility of Addiction: As someone who advises others on how to play fantasy sports and bet on sports, just writing the word “addiction” is a bit nerve-wracking. But just as we must continue to break the stigma around substance abuse disorder and addiction, sports gambling addiction also needs to be more spoken about.
Two to three percent of American adults meet the criteria for a gambling problem. The most popular form of gambling amongst 14-22-year-olds is sports gambling. With 8-24-year-old males the most at risk of developing a gambling problem, so you see why there is a concern. Sports gambling can very well accelerate a gambling addiction for a young person.
Of course, there are ways to play sports gambling responsibly, like budgeting a proper unit amount that won’t break the bank if you lose, along with setting other limits on yourself.
If you or someone you know does have a gambling addiction, call 1-800-GAMBLER to speak with someone on a 24/7 hotline.
If you are gambling this upcoming football season, have fun and enjoy it. Just don’t forget the real reason why we love this game. Remember the purity of the game you fell in love with – likely as a child. Share it, pass it on and relish in it.