The RPs Debate Gambling: Artur Davis Responds

Artur Davis‘ First Reponse

[The RP’s Provocation, Artur Davis’s Rebuttal #1; Ron Granieri’s Rebuttal #2; Natasha Dow Schüll’s Analysis; Spectrum Gaming Group’s Analysis; Jason Grill’s Rebuttal #3; The RP’s First Defense; Jason Grill’s First Response]

I would add just a little to Jonathan’s arguments against sports gambling, which I think are entirely correct.  The NCAA struggles to police the rules that exist today; it is a notoriously weak investigator without subpoena power, and I cant’t imagine the strains it would face if policing the ties between amateurs and more powerful, more nationalized gambling interests were part of it’s charter.

It’s worth examining the question of why the current regime of legalized sports betting in a few jurisdictions doesn’t pose the same risks. In fairness to Jason Grill’s case, there are enormous sums of gambling money at work today, and it’s been over 25 years since there was a bona-fide betting scandal in college sports. The true answer is that we don’t know what changing the scale of sports betting would do to incentivize corruption; in my mind, however, that’s a strike in it’s own right. If we guess wrong, the likelihood is an irreparable stain on amateur athletics. It’s also likely that, as I have argued in the context of legalizing marijuana, criminals are far more likely to bend their business model to profit from looser regulations, than they are to forfeit a lucrative market altogether.
By the way, I suspect Jonathan underestimates the risk of corruption in professional sports from an expanded gambling economy. The fact is that we haven’t done a very good job forecasting scandal trends in sports; the steroids threat in baseball crept up on us, and as predictable as it seems today, the eruption of cocaine use in basketball and baseball in the eighties was a culture shock to a society that thoughts its athletes venerated their bodies too much to ingest anything much harder than liquor.

I am not pollyannish enough to think we will ever roll back the level of organized gambling–too much power, too much cash–but I’ve yet to see a case for its growth that isn’t too packed with corruption risks, or too likely to exploit the poor, or too likely to create a deeply inequitable market.

One other unintended consequence: once gambling is entrenched as a source of revenue, it’s the effective death of any case for broader tax reform at the state level. Progressives shift their sights from erasing out of state corporate tax loopholes, or incentive give-aways, to sustaining gambling. The political right is perfectly happy to take that trade-off, especially when gambling donations start showing uo in their coffers too.

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