Sports betting would be a good gamble to take

Published 5:47 pm Friday, January 24, 2020

Ever since the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for states to allow betting on sporting events across the board in 2018, there’s been high interest in the idea. Initially relegated to Nevada, it’s now been approved by 20 states.

Kentucky had an opportunity to be one of the first to get in on the action, but a bill to allow it didn’t make it through the 2019 legislative session. That represented an estimated $20 million worth of lost revenue that could have gone into the state coffers.

In the meantime, many of Kentucky’s surrounding states have passed such bills. Some of them, like Indiana, are already seeing a windfall. Others, including Tennessee, are on the cusp of implementing already their laws allowing it.

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It’s looking a little more likely Kentucky could join the ranks of states that allow it. The revived bill was recently passed out of a House committee unanimously. One change this time around is that it would allow betting on in-state college athletics.

There are two main arguments that always seem to surface when expanded gambling is discussed in Kentucky. The first is that the state’s constitution does not allow it. This line of reasoning is dubious, and some legislators have already pointed out that the historical record doesn’t bear out the idea that those who drafted and passed the Kentucky Constitution ever meant for this type of gambling, and many other types, to be prohibited.

The bigger concern for people seems to be a moral one. Essentially, gambling is wrong and if this vice is legally sanctioned, there are a significant number of folks who will ruin their own lives, and destroy their families financially, by gambling in excess. Much the same logic was trotted out during local alcohol referendums.

The effectiveness of any sort of prohibition is eroded when many of the areas around you — other states, in this instance — decided to break ranks. Then you simply have a situation where you are hemorrhaging potential tax revenue, but you still have the same problems that at least some of that revenue could be used to mitigate against.

Simply put, all the same problems, none of the money to deal with them. Logically, it’s an untenable position.

Honestly, we already do it all the time anyway. Even the most pious among us plays in tournament bracket pools, and has a friendly wager now and again. It’s hard to find someone who’s never bet on a horse race.

You ever notice how you can be watching a game, that is basically meaningless to you as a fan, but add the element of even a small bet, and suddenly it becomes pretty darn exciting? Sports wagering spurs interest in sports overall, and eliminates the need for bookies and underground gambling, making it safer and better regulated for those who are going to gamble anyway, whether we agree with it or not.

In Kentucky, it appears as though it will help bolster and protect one of our state’s signature industries — horse racing.

Also, it’s really a question of freedom. Do you want more of it or less? Generally speaking, I like the most freedom I can get, blended together with laws and regulations that still allow for an orderly, peaceful society.

Not passing this bill this year is a wasted opportunity. Voters are warm to the idea. The current governor has signaled he won’t stand in the way. Inaction only serves to benefit our neighboring states who seem to have startling clarity on this issue, and no qualms about taking swift action to benefit their citizens.

— Corbin/Whitley News Journal