Why A Crackdown On Gambling Isn't The Answer To The NBA's Corruption Woes

from the if-gambling-is-outlawed-only-outlaws-will-gamble dept

In recent days, the NBA has been rocked by allegations that one of its referees was gambling on games that he was officiating. The claims have yet to be proven, but the official has already resigned from the league. NBA commissioner David Stern has called this an isolated incident, but at the same time is calling for a greater crackdown on illegal sports betting. The league could employ advanced statistical monitoring techniques to determine whether its referees have suspicious foul-calling patterns, although it would be difficult to prove anything definitive. In a New York Times op-ed, economist Justin Wolfers makes the contrarian argument that the solution is to lift anti-gambling laws that are in place throughout much of the country. Because sports betting is illegal in most areas, the industry is dominated by organized criminals, whose modus operandi is point shaving, the practice of paying players and refs to affect the final score of the game, but not actually the outcome, in order beat the Vegas spread. To those who participate in it, it feels like a harmless crime, since they're not actually throwing the game itself. Legalizing sports betting would help solve this problem as organized crime would have little to gain by operating in this business (customers would just go to legal, safer alternatives). Some entities may still opt to bet on games and then attempt to influence them, but as all betting would go through legitimate enterprises, suspicious activity is much more likely to get reported. Thus, while it sounds nice to "get tough" on gambling, it's the fact that we're already tough on it that's causing the problems.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    boost, Jul 30th, 2007 @ 7:33pm

    First

    Foremost!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    nonuser, Jul 30th, 2007 @ 7:39pm

    weak argument

    This smacks of a typical professional economist's proposal that fails the Huh? test - try explaining your proposal to legalize picking winners while keeping bets against the point spread illegal, and the average listener will say Huh? Why one, and not the other?

    Legalizing sports betting nationwide would mean a dramatic inflow of money which would exacerbate problems with crooked players and refs. And the people who have the wherewithal to identify and connect motivated, ethics-challenged players with shaving opportunities are still likely to come from organized crime. It matters not whether the gambling is legal or illegal.

    And there still would be plenty of bets against the point spread, because the market has found that to be an attractive and suitable format for houses and bettors.

    I'm not saying legalizing sports gambling should not be considered, but this is not a convincing presentation.

     

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  3.  
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    NSMike, Jul 30th, 2007 @ 8:03pm

    I saw this headline in the RSS feed and thought, "Well, duh."

     

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  4.  
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    Tom, Jul 31st, 2007 @ 4:55am

    Argument proven time and time again

    We've seen it with illegal alcohol, we've seen it with illegal marijuana, we've seen it with illegal guns, we've seen it with illegal prostitution, we've seen it with illegal gambling. How many times in how many ways do we need to keep getting slapped in the face with the reality that when you make these victimless activities illegal, organized crime moves in to capitalize on the activity?

    And, as we have seen when these activities have been relegalized, the number of participants does not increase substantially, the amount of money spent does not increase (usually decreases) and those who are compulsive about the activity stays about the same. All that happens is that organized crime loses its financial incentive and quickly moves on to other "illegal" activities.

     

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  5.  
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    Sneeje, Jul 31st, 2007 @ 6:10am

    Too general a discussion

    This has been suggested of insider trading as well. The problem is that the idea breaks down quickly once you start considering the details and the implications. For example, making insider trading legal, but disclosed still basically hoses the average investor who could never act on the information.

    But like the NBA problems, it wouldn't eliminate the current problem, which would still be disallowed by the league whether it was illegal or not.

    To the folks who argue that we always find these problems with "victimless" activities that shouldn't be illegal... they are never victimless.

     

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  6.  
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    Overcast, Jul 31st, 2007 @ 6:40am

    Gambling is a business for Government only and their chosen Corporate Casinos.

    No one else is allowed to.

    Now go buy a lottery ticket like a good little pleb.

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Elohssa, Jul 31st, 2007 @ 7:00am

    You don't want free money, Uncle Sam?

    Apart from the time-proven "effects of criminalization are worse than regulation" line, consider the tax revenues that would be generated when legal gamblers and legal bookies declared their winnings to the IRS.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 31st, 2007 @ 11:11am

    Re: weak argument

    Although the original article suggests only legalizing wagering on which team wins or loses a particular game, while banning all bets on immaterial outcomes like point spreads, but Joe doesn't...so would it pass your Huh? test if point spreads were legalized too?

    "are still likely to come from organized crime. It matters not whether the gambling is legal or illegal."

    I guess you didn't read (or failed to process)
    "Legalizing sports betting would help solve this problem as organized crime would have little to gain by operating in this business (customers would just go to legal, safer alternatives)"

    and "Some entities may still opt to bet on games and then attempt to influence them, but as all betting would go through legitimate enterprises, suspicious activity is much more likely to get reported."

    If you really feel the need to formulate an opinion, at least make it an informed one, regardless of how wrong your opinion is, at least it'll be informed

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
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    SailorRipley, Jul 31st, 2007 @ 11:20am

    Re: Too general a discussion

    So, please enlighten us all, who are the victims of gambling? When I bet my money with a bookie and he keeps it when I lose, or pays me out my earnings when I win, who exactly is the victim?

    Follow-up question: how did government get rid of those victims prior to legalizing in the regions where gambling is (made) legal?

    To quote a comic: next time you have a thought...let it go

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Gambling or betting on it?, Aug 2nd, 2010 @ 6:26pm

    Gambling or betting on it?

    Gambling and betting which most consider to be about the same can be good or bad. One thing is for sure is that it should be handled legally at a local level rather than a national level. For some communities it is a boon and others a problem. "price per head"

     

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