New article in the LVBP

If you are curious, I’ve got a new article in today’s Las Vegas Business Press. The gist of it is that Sports leagues can no longer stick their heads in the sand. Here’s a sneak peek:

Illegal sports betting is the dirty big secret of modern college and professional sports. League representatives talk tough — get them in front of a congressional hearing and they will bluster on about how their athletes must refrain from associating with “gamblers” lest the integrity of their game be called into question.

The baleful influence of professional gamblers on sports in the past cannot be overstated. In the late-19th and early-20th century, bookmakers and big bettors exercised such power over the results that the nation’s two most popular sports, baseball and horseracing, were nearly driven to extinction by public disgust.

So it makes sense for sports leagues to be on guard for collusion between gambling interests and players. But talk of “associating with gamblers” seems kind of Runyonesque. Sure, players probably should steer clear of characters like “Harry the Horse” and Sky Masterson, but it is probably impossible to avoid gamblers completely these days. More than 54 million Americans visit casinos each year, and the number of lottery and bingo players can only be guessed at. The majority of Americans are gamblers.

Part of the annual Super Bowl news cycle focuses on the Jekyll and Hyde world of sports betting: the shining “super books” of the big Strip casinos contrast well with the murky milieu of illegal bookies. Recently, Internet sports books — illegal in the U.S. but lawful elsewhere — have complicated the picture.
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