Professional sports leagues, from the NFL to Major League Baseball, are making a colossal mistake if they think gambling will boost their declining attendance. Changing Yankee Stadium from “The House that Ruth Built” to “The Casino that Gamers Built” is not a way to fill seats in a ballpark.
It was nearly a century ago when professional baseball saved its sport by taking a strong stance against betting on the World Series, and college basketball did likewise in the 1950s. But future scandals seem inevitable under the Supreme Court’s decision in may allowing nationwide wagering on sports.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions should beef up enforcement of the Wire Act, which is a federal law enacted in 1961 to limit interstate betting. Professional and amateur sports are inherently interstate, and the Department of Justice should announce that it will enforce the Wire Act to shut down all attempts to ramp up betting on interstate sports.
State legislatures should pass strong laws prohibiting betting in their states, and can do even more than that. States should require all the teams based in their jurisdictions to take affirmative steps to discourage wagering on games by fans.
Perhaps Justices on the Supreme Court thought they were doing something good for states’ rights, but what about states wanting to be free from the plague of gambling? Absent from the 49 pages of opinions of the Court was any observation that gambling is a vice, for which there is voluminous evidence about the enormous harm it causes to individuals and communities. Instead, the Court did selective research on the internet to paint an illusion that gambling somehow has a respectable history in our country.
The Court’s opinion epitomizes a “law without values” judicial philosophy, which is as morally bankrupt as it sounds. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., was a famous advocate of this approach a century ago, and it led to some dreadful rulings such as upholding the forced sterilization of a woman because she supposedly had a very low I.Q.
Hopefully Attorney General Sessions, state legislatures, and families themselves will stand up now against gambling. They have trump cards of their own they can play to halt sports gambling.