Online gambling

The online game is here. And it’s going to be a disaster for athletes and fans.

This Saturday is the Kentucky Derby. It’s a day for a fancy hat, a gross drink, and a sentimental chant of “My Old Kentucky Home.” It’s also a day to bet on ponies, with Zandon (odds 3-1) and Epicenter (odds 7-2) the two favourites. It might rain, though, and maybe there’s a mudder on the pitch who will bring home the big upset – and a serious scratch for a loyal punter or two.

I’ve been playing since I was 18. The Super Bowl; March Madness; the World Series; the National League West; spring break in Las Vegas; Thursday nights on the horses in Hollywood Park at the university. It was almost all illegal, but it always seemed more or less harmless fun: $20 here, $20 there, usually between friends and with a friend of a friend who was a small bookie. My bets are part of the $150 billion illegally wagered each year in the United States, according to the American Gaming Commission.

Some studies estimate that over two million Americans are addicted to gambling. That’s a lot of scharole in Tony Soprano’s pocket.

Less trivial, of course, is what gambling can become: full-blown addiction and financial disaster for players and everyone around them, especially family. Lending money to degenerate gamblers and getting it back through extortion remains the most valuable source of revenue, “the wheel on which everything else turns,” in the world of crime, according to Philadelphia mob expert George Anastasia. organized. Some recent studies have estimated that over two million Americans are addicted to gambling. That’s a lot of scharole in Tony Soprano’s pocket.

Civil authorities have always tolerated illegal gambling to some degree. A relatively minor vice, it never seemed worth committing major resources to combating it, except in dense urban areas where it went hand in hand with far worse. The Catholic Church has not always been clear about this either: St. Thomas Aquinas believed that a little play from time to time could help “eutrapeliai.e. the virtue of knowing how to have a little safe fun, and God knows we love our bingo.

But we also had a sort of national consensus that any type of permitted gambling should be compartmentalized or remote: Las Vegas, Atlantic City, a riverboat, the racetrack in the boonies. There were of course exceptions – the off-track betting parlors, religious gambling and ubiquitous state lotteries being the most important – but most of the time, to gamble legally, you had to take a trip somewhere.

No more. When the Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in 2018, it allowed states to legalize gambling. We all see casinos popping up in cities across the country, but these are just the tip of the iceberg. Real money is in online gambling. When New York State legalized online gambling in January of this year, more than $2.4 billion was wagered through websites and apps in the first month alone. This is a huge windfall for the tax authorities. It is also a terrible, terrible omen for what is to come.

Gambling is no longer something done with friends, or on Las Vegas getaways, or in the office betting pool. This is done from your living room.

Gambling is no longer something done with friends, or on Las Vegas getaways, or in the office betting pool. This is done from your living room.

If you live in New York or another state that has legalized online betting, you have surely noticed this change when logging into a game recently. At any streamed or televised NBA playoff game, professional baseball game, or even something as goofy as the NFL Draft last week, viewers are bombarded with sports betting commercials. in line.

The protagonists of such advertisements seem to take two forms: the former professional athlete sitting on his couch at home, or the thirty-something sports fan, also sitting on his couch at home. Either way, the advertiser is bragging that it’s not enough to bet on the outcome of the game: you can bet on every possession, every change in lead, every variable imaginable. The player is in heaven, the glow of his phone lighting his face in a dark living room. Some advertisements even claim that you can cancel your bet up to the last second if circumstances change (which is obviously a lie). Suddenly, you’re no longer watching the Super Bowl with half a mind towards the $25 you bet on the Cowboys — instead, you’re treating every moment like an opportunity to win a game of chance. And you do it through another addictive behavior: looking at your cell phone.

The player is in heaven, the glow of his phone lighting his face in a dark living room.

Leaving aside the question of what it does to the integrity of sport – when an individual athlete need not throw an entire match, but can benefit others with something as minor as a missed pass, a dropped ball, that his or his family or friends’ bet would happen – what does this change in the culture of the game?

Companies like FanDuel, MGM, and Caesars have spent hundreds of millions on their ads, and they haven’t been subtle. An endlessly-streamed ad features former NBA star Charles Barkley on his couch, tempted to gamble. Many sports fans, of course, know that Barkley himself is a compulsive gambler; he has publicly admitted in the past that he has already lost $2.5 million in six hours of play and has lost over $10 million in his adult life. It’s hard to read the ad’s message as anything other than “Now you can play at home, and nobody needs to know”.

Charles Barkley might like to gamble on his phone because he doesn’t want people taking pictures of him in a casino. You might like to play on your phone because you don’t want your partner or kids to know. Your friend might enjoy playing on the phone, as the rapid, erratic and unpredictable surge of endorphins validates all of his gambling instincts. And there’s no going to checkout this time around; there is no stealth trip to the ATM; there’s no quick call to assure your dead-eyed bookie that you’re good for another penny. Because now your game app is connected to your current account.

It’s no longer a harmless little pleasure.