Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

Bill Bradley Had Some Dumb Thoughts About The Legalization Of Sports Gambling

Bill Bradley, shown here helpfully wearing a nametag.
Bill Bradley, shown here helpfully wearing a nametag.
Photo: Scott Olson (Getty)

Sports gambling is going to be a disaster for some. The widespread legalization of sports gambling in the United States, for which the Supreme Court paved the way with a ruling earlier this week, will lead to some people gambling all their money away. It will not lead to a renaissance in Atlantic City or anywhere else. The profits from sports gambling will go to casino companies and their shareholders and probably won’t be invested in a way that leads to sustainable growth for communities that host casinos.

But, in general, the legalization of sports gambling will be fine. The internet has made sports gambling nearly ubiquitous anyway. Making sports gambling more widespread will cut into the black market. A more above-board sports betting market actually makes it easier to track players who could be throwing games. And obviously I want to go to Atlantic City one Sunday this fall and lose some money betting on the Eagles.

Yes, there are downsides. One of those downsides is not the erosion of morality in general and the end of sports as a healthful pastime. But former NBA star and U.S. Senator Bill Bradley is very, very worried.


Speaking to The Record, Bradley says the Supreme Court decision threatens “the character of sports itself,” adding that “the values that it teaches will be debased.” Yes, yes. What else?

And that doesn’t mean pros only. Because now you can bet on college, you could even bet on high school. You could even bet on AAU, 14-year-olds playing in the finals of the AAU. And the only winner here are casinos, in my opinion. [...]

I think the game will be corrupted. Do you really want to go to your son’s high school basketball or football game and see people in the crowd who are betting, who are not rooting for your child to win or lose, but are betting on a spread? It’ll be pervasive.

It is destructive.

It’s incredibly unlikely any sports book is going to take bets on high school games. But even if they did, would it really matter? Would people show up to a high school basketball game and start ... cheering for the point spread? Tons of people bet on pro and college sports already and stadiums aren’t full of people who only care about the point spread.

While running for president in 2000, Bradley wrote a book on the values sports teach. And, sure, sports are great. But gambling couldn’t harm sports any more than corporatization, rampant sexism, unfair labor practices, the cheat-to-win mentality and expensive tickets in taxpayer-funded stadiums already have.

To single out sports gambling as the downfall of American sports is a very odd stance to take. But what else would you expect from a Princeton grad?

Staff editor, Deadspin

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