The Short Porch: Sports Gambling is Okay Now! …Sort Of

It’s a proven fact that you have a 100% better chance of making a baseball into the bucket if you shout “KOBE!”

– That one guy on your team

 

With the Supreme Court ruling that the ban on sports gambling is unconstitutional, states now have the right to allow sports gambling. Gone are the days of road trips to Vegas and placing bets (Vegas Baby). You are no longer limited to swindling money from your friends and coworkers with your freakish ability to cover the spread. You are free to lose money on sporting events easier than ever (I say lose because you never really win — I don’t at least). But with the ban now struck down what does this mean for the game?  Baseball has seen its fair share of controversies and controversial players centered around gambling throughout its amazing rich history, most notably is the case of the “Black Sox” scandal. In 1919 eight players from the Chicago White Sox were accused of intentionally throwing the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds (the Reds seem to be linked to gambling a lot) as a match fixing incident in exchange for money from a gambling syndicate led by a man named Arnold Rothstein. The fall out led to MLB making Federal Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis the first commissioner of the game giving him authority to clean up the game where he saw fit. We also remember a player named Pete Rose; MLB hit leader, a catcher flattener, and problem gambler.

One cannot mention gambling and baseball and not instantly think about the most notoriously associated player connected to the scandal. 1919 was almost 100 (99 to be exact) years ago and the players involved with the “Black Sox” scandal are now playing the game in some cornfield because someone built it and they came. Also, they are dead. As the more relevant face of the gambling fiasco, Pete Edward “Charlie Hustle” Rose SR’s name resurfaces and, without hesitation the debate about his Hall of Fame bid comes back is revived as well. We all know about the trouble that gambling got Pete Rose into. He had, and apparently still has, a problem with gambling spanning his playing career and managing days.  In August 1989 (Pete’s last year as a manager and just three years after he retired as a player), Rose was slapped with a permanent ban from baseball because of accusations that he gambled on baseball games while he played for and managed the Reds. The Baseball Hall of Fame formally voted in 1991, to ban those on the “permanently ineligible” list from induction into the hall, after previously excluding such players by informal agreement among voters. After years of public denial, Rose admitted in 2004 that he bet on baseball and on the Reds. The issue of Rose’s possible reinstatement and election to the Hall of Fame remains argumentative throughout baseball. Does he belong back in the game if we are ok with sports gambling now? Does the argument change now that societies values have changed?

I get trying to make the fan experience more enjoyable with betting and it is an interesting idea. There are just some reservations that I have about it. Personally, I am a wreck when I have money on the line.  I don’t focus on how much I could win but how much I am going to lose. That tiny voice inside my head reminds me of the odds I am up against and that there is a reason why the “house” always makes money, it’s not totally left up to chance. Maybe that has tainted my outlook on gambling and I have a bias when looking at this issue, or maybe I am just an unlucky guy who knows it and is bitter about it.  But would legalized gambling lead the fans to wonder if the games are fixed or not? How do the bookies know the odds and set them? If the leagues stand to make a cut of the money what would prevent them from fixing the games so that the house always wins? Imagine if you placed a large wager on a game, let’s say game 7 of the World Series, only to find out that the game was thrown so that the people placing bets against huge odds would make money hand over fist, wouldn’t you cry FOUL!!?

MLB will need to assure the fans that this isn’t another “Black Sox” scandal and should be prepared to fight allegations of fixing.  Is the MLB responsible to set its own limits on bets to curb the risk of people losing all their money? How will this affect all people who struggle with gambling addictions?  So many questions remain and as states start to vote on whether to allow sports gambling in their state the question must be answered before I can totally wrap my head around this issue. But I am always in favor of freedoms and allowing people to make decisions about their property for themselves, so I think I am leaning towards letting people bet if they want to. I will wait and see how this plays out, maybe it will be so smooth that it will go over without any hitches and opens new areas of excitement.  Or maybe I would lose my shirt and have discovered a new vice that will lead to my own downfall. So many things to think about but I can confidently bet you that Pete is not getting in the Hall of Fame in his lifetime, hell I will put $5 on it. And with that prop bet on the line its begun people, hide the savings babe I’m on a roll.  Play Ball.

 

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