Bet You're Wondering What the Big Deal Is

If you make a bet on an NFL contest - let's say you're in Las Vegas on a business trip, and you visit the casino's sports book and put $110 on the New England Patriots to cover the 10 and a half points against the Bills in their season opener - do you think your actions could somehow compromise the result of the game? If enough of you and your drinking buddies put money on the Patriots, will the bookmaker make a quick call to the referee, asking for a phantom holding call or two to keep the Bills in it? Or to a Patriots running back, asking him to fumble at a key moment, allowing the Bills to escape with a mere nine-point loss?

No. A sports book offers multiple odds on every conceivable sporting (and every other kind of) event - from the Super Bowl, the game with the biggest action across the globe, down to the Golden Globes, political contests and Survivor - and even on specific occurrences taking place during those events, from how many yards rushing Edgerrin James will get to how many times the TV cameras will show Jack Nicholson during the Oscars telecast. Sports books can afford to be wrong, because every event is a toss-up, and even when they give you $100 for your winning $110 wager, they keep the $10 vig. They can't lose, and they don't. Sports books have no incentive to manipulate game results.

So the "integrity of the games" argument flashed by the major professional leagues this summer in opposition to Delaware's decision in May to legalize sports betting just doesn't wash. Don't get me wrong - a crazed gambler with fifty grand riding on the Redskins on Sunday can certainly offer twenty to a Giants' lineman to have a particularly bad day blocking. But he can do that now, no matter where he placed his wager.

This week's decision by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to strike down Delaware's betting plans hinged on its finding that the state's bill "violates the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act" of 1992. No act of Congress is more poorly named. Restricting legalized betting ensures that money wagered will continue to get in the hands of the types of shady characters that turned the White Sox black, instead of creating tax revenues that could be used to fill state coffers, just like state-run lotteries do. And the more places there are to take legal bets, the less likely it is that the integrity of games can be compromised.

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