Gambling sometimes gets bad press, and sometimes it deserves it. It will always be a touchy subject for some people and some campaign groups because when gambling isn't subjected to checks and balances, it can become an issue. As a rule of thumb, gambling companies get richer while their customers get poorer. There are notable exceptions, of course - many lucky players have won millions of dollars from their chosen hobby - but for every tale of success, there’s also a tale of addiction and destitution.
Perhaps because there’s such an air of suspicion around gambling companies, it can sometimes be hard to see how relaxed gambling regulations or an expansion of the gambling industry as a whole can bring net benefits to an area, or even an entire country, but it can. We’re seeing that in America at the moment, where sports betting is taking the country by storm after finally being legalized nationwide by a Supreme Court ruling last year.
Sports betting has the potential to be bigger than any other form of gambling in the United States, due to both availability and practicality. Unlike the UK, where online casinos and online slots are commonplace, not every US state allows access to mobile slots. Nor does every American citizen know how to play card games, and nor do they understand the functions or strategies of roulette or mobile slots games. Moreover, because success at games like mobile slots is all down to chance, some people are reluctant to play. With sports betting, knowledge of form and probability brings financial rewards. If American sports fans feel like they know their sport well enough to predict results accurately, they can win money for those predictions. That's the appeal and the benefit for players, but there are also big benefits for the economy as a whole.
Where money is being spent legally, there’s tax revenue to be made. Even before sports betting became legal, almost forty billion dollars per year of tax revenue was being made from American casinos on an annual basis. That’s despite the fact that casinos only exist in forty of the fifty American states.
It's hard to estimate the size of an illegal market, but most estimates agree that around $500bn was being spent on sports betting each year illegally before the Supreme Court's decision. We can assume that figure will increase significantly now it's legal to place sports bets. It's not difficult to see how that could create another fifty billion dollars worth of tax money. That's a lot of money for schools, medical facilities, and other state-owned assets that are crying out for funding.
A Fairer System
As we just said, American citizens were already spending money on sports betting whether they were legally allowed to do so or not. They did that at their own risk. If an untrustworthy entity refused to honor a bet or tried to change the terms of a bet that had already been agreed upon, gamblers had little recourse to solve the issue. They could hardly phone the police and tell them an illegal gambling shark had stolen their money.
Because sports betting is now legal, it has to abide by rules and regulations. That means ethical treatment of players and a clear process as to how and when winnings should be paid out. Everyone has to play by the rules, and the rules are there to protect players.
You can’t just open up a whole new sphere of gambling without bringing in a workforce to support it. Sports betting is a whole new industry for the majority of states, and that industry is going to need staff to help it run smoothly. That means jobs are being created and filled, and unemployment figures are coming down.
We shouldn’t just think of the casinos and sports betting outlets when we think about employment either. As casinos get busier, more businesses will spring up around them - typically bars, restaurants, and cinemas. Those new businesses will also need staff, and so that’s another boost to revenue and a drop in unemployment.
Better Help For Problem Gamblers
The lazy way to think about this would be to assume that if more people gamble, there will be more gambling addicts. That isn't necessarily true. Many people already gamble illegally, and because their hobby is illegal, they can struggle to find appropriate support for their problems close to home. If you're a gambling addict in a state where gambling is illegal, you're unlikely to find anywhere you can go for assistance.
As some form of gambling will now be legal in every state, there will have to be provisions made for people who want help with their gambling habits. That actually means more assistance for people who need it, not less. If the US follows the UK model, we may even see large gambling companies funding treatment facilities themselves.
A Crackdown On Crime
There is some truth to the old fable that gambling was once run by mobsters and gangsters. The influence of the mafia over the gambling scene in Las Vegas is well-known, and we can also safely assume that there’s a mob presence in illegal gambling activity elsewhere in the country. People have always been making money from taking bets - it’s just that in the past, that money has disappeared into the black market instead of going through the books as it should.
As sports betting is now legal, there’s no reason for players to go to criminals in order to place their bets. That’s less money in the hands of organized crime, and more money entering the legitimate systems. Even if the total amount spent on gambling in the United States of America didn’t increase by a single dollar, the economy would still be better off because of this key difference in where the money goes.
There will, inevitably, still be some who have a problem with the mass availability of gambling. There will be some who will never accept it and will always campaign against it. While everyone's voice deserves to be heard, don't let any outcry cloud your judgment when it comes to the basic facts. Legalized sports betting has already been a win for America, and it will continue being a win as it expands across all fifty states.