Ryan Holeywell is a staff writer at GOVERNING.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Does betting on a football game make it less enjoyable for fans? That’s the argument being put forth in New Jersey by the four major sports leagues, along with the NCAA. The group filed suit against Gov. Chris Christie in August, after the governor signed a law to allow sports betting in Atlantic City casinos and at racetracks throughout the state.
The sports leagues’ chief complaint is that gambling could affect the integrity of professional and college sports. (Their specific legal claim is that New Jersey is violating a 1992 federal law that prohibited sports gambling everywhere but Delaware, Montana, Nevada and Oregon. The law gave New Jersey a one-year window in which it could have allowed the practice, but lawmakers in the state didn’t do so at the time.) In terms of integrity, wrote National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell in a statement accompanying the suit, sports gambling would promote cynicism among fans. “If gambling is freely permitted on sports events, normal incidents of the game such as bad snaps, dropped passes, turnovers, penalties and play-calling inevitably will fuel speculation, distrust and accusations of point-shaving or game-fixing.” Fans, he said, would stop having allegiances to teams and players and would instead focus solely on winning a bet.
It’s worth noting that that doesn’t seem to have happened so far, despite an estimated $2.76 billion wagered on sports in Nevada in 2010, according to the American Gaming Association -- not to mention countless office pools on college hoops.