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Sports Gambling Essay, Research Paper

Americans are familiar with the nation s major addictions: narcotics, alcohol, and tobacco. Society has spent countless millions of dollars warning about these substances, however another addiction that receives far less attention is sweeping across America. This addiction is having a major impact on the college campuses across our nation. The executive director of the N.C.A.A., Cedric W. Demsey, in his 1997 State of the Association address called gambling the most serious threat facing intercollegiate athletics(Naughton A52). At the heart of the gambling problem on college campuses is college sports gambling. Gambling on college sports has two major impacts. First, gambling on sports just like casino gambling is addictive. Secondly, gambling on college sports has hurt the integrity of college athletics. Because gambling on college sports is causing negative consequences for college students, athletes, and athletic games, the U.S. government should ban all gambling on college sports, and steps should be taken to decrease the prevalence of illegal and Internet gambling on college campuses.

On March 19, 1931, the Nevada state government voted to legalize gambling. At this time no one had ever heard of the term, sports book . It would be some forty years later before the first sports book would open up in Las Vegas. The Union Plaza Hotel in downtown Las Vegas opened the first casino sports book in 1975.

A sports book is a place where a bet can be made on a sporting event. Nevada is the only state where a person can bet on an individual game or sporting event legally. A person can bet on almost every professional sport, along with some collegiate sports, which mainly consist of men s basketball and football. The sports books in Las Vegas each have huge electronic odds boards that tell which teams are playing, the team that is expected to win, and how much the team is expected to win by. The team that is supposed to win is called the favorite, and the team that is supposed to lose is called the underdog. Now someone new to sports betting would say, well I ll just bet on the favorite and win most of the time. Unfortunately, however it is much tougher than this. The one thing that makes gambling on sports very difficult is a term called the point spread. The underdog team is given an edge or points, and this is generally referred to as the point spread. Here is an example of how the point spread works. Suppose the Kansas City Chiefs are playing the Denver Broncos at Mile High Stadium, here in Denver. The Broncos have the home-field advantage, plus they are two-time defending Super Bowl champs. Most bettors would put their money on the Broncos, right? But what if ten points were added to the Chiefs final score? Now which team would bettors choose then? The decision becomes more difficult. For those who bet on Denver, the Broncos must win by more than ten points. Suppose the final score is Broncos 29, Chiefs 20. With a point spread of ten points added to the Chiefs side, the final betting score becomes Broncos 29, Chiefs 30. Those who bet on the Chiefs win and those who bet on the Broncos lose. On the other hand, if the Broncos win by more than ten points, say 34-20, bettors say that the Broncos covered the spread. If the Broncos win by exactly ten points, neither side wins and all bets are returned.

How much money does a winning bettor receive? The odds are 11-to-10. That is, a person must bet $11 to win $10. The $1 difference is called the juice, and this difference is how the casino makes its money. It may seem like a small amount, but the higher the amount wagered the higher the juice will be. With these odds, a gambler who bets the same amount on every game has to be right 52.38 percent of the time to break even or in other words win 11 out of 21 bets made.

Sports books try to set a point spread that represents the betting public s opinion on the probable outcome of the game, not the bookmakers , contrary to popular belief that the sports books set point spreads based only on which team is better or worse (Oorlog 97). This way the casino doesn t worry which team wins or loses. The casino may not always win, but it never loses because it automatically receives the juice as profit. How are point spreads determined? This is the job of the oddsmaker, who wants to attract an equal amount of bets on each team in a game. The leading oddsmaker in Las Vegas is Michael Roxy Roxborough(Orkin 58). He runs a service called Las Vegas Sports Consultants from the 12th floor of the Valley Bank Building just off the Strip. Roxborough s line goes out by computer to his casino sports book customers and about 70 major newspapers around the country (Savage 32). You might wonder why the point spreads are given to 70 major newspapers around the country if you can only bet on sports in Las Vegas?

The reason is because illegal sports gambling is far bigger than legal sports gambling, and many people read the newspaper just to see the point spread on the games that night. The legal gambling industry took in $2.5 billion in 1996, but illegal wagers were estimated to account for more than $90 billion(McGraw 50). Illegal sports gambling is not like what you would see in Las Vegas, with the huge odds boards displaying the odds on games. The huge sports books in Las Vegas are replaced by individuals who are called bookies. These bookies do pretty much the same operation as the sports books in the casinos, just at a smaller scale and with the risk of being caught by law enforcement officers. The bookies take bets over the phone from their clientele, mostly on credit, and make their money off the juice, just like the sports book in Las Vegas. This is a risky business, however since there is no way to make somebody pay off his or her bets. A bookie can not call the police and say that someone made a bet, and now they re not willing to pay up. With the risk of not getting paid and getting busted by the police, some bookies have come up with better ideas of getting around the law.

Some bookies that were breaking the law for taking sports bets in the U.S. have now moved overseas. The new wave and the future of sports betting are now overseas. How? Sports betting on the Internet. Is this legal? It depends. Many countries outside the United States allow legalized sports gambling. Federal law in the United States prohibits people from transmitting by wire any wager in interstate or foreign commerce. Many of these new, as they re called, sports-betting houses hope to skirt the U.S. gambling laws because it is not on U.S. soil. Legal or not, online gambling is big business. The Justice Department has estimated $600 million was bet over the Internet on sports in 1997, a tenfold increase of the estimated total for 1996(NCAA targets Internet betting 2).

With all of this money being wagered on sporting events legally, illegally, and on the Internet, who benefits? Relatively few do. The few that benefit are the ones taking the bets, such as the casino, the bookie, and the over-seas betting houses. These few benefit by getting richer and richer at the expense of others. Sports gambling has affected one group in particular. According to the article, You bet you life by Tim Layden, he states that gambling is rampant on college campuses across the country. Students, often bright but na ve, bet- -and lose- -substantial sums of money on sporting events(47).

College sports gambling has two main negative side effects. The first, which is probably most obvious, is that gambling on sports is addictive. The second, which many people are unaware of, is that college sports gambling is hurting the integrity of college sports many of us enjoy to watch.

The fastest growing addiction in the United States is gambling (Horn 34). In the article Pathologic gambling: America s newest addiction? by Andrew V. Pasternak, he says that the availability of legalized gambling, especially casino gambling, has proliferated in the United States. Some form of legalized gambling exists in every state except Utah and Hawaii, and 27 states have legalized casino gambling. Off-shore companies offer sports-book wagering through toll-free numbers and the Internet. In 1996, $586.5 billion was wagered in all forms of legal gambling in the United States. Overall, between 75 and 90 percent of Americans gamble(1293). With casinos sprouting up everywhere across our country, and the introduction of Internet gambling, it is no wonder why gambling has become an ever-increasing problem in our society.

With the availability of gambling on the increase, the number of compulsive gamblers is going to rise as well. States that permitted gambling at casinos, sports betting, jai alai, and teletheaters had a greater per capita number of Gamblers Anonymous chapters(Campbell and Lester 126). According to the article Pathological Gambling and Depression, which states that a gambling addict can be defined as someone who is chronically and progressively unable to resist impulses to gamble and for whom gambling compromises, disrupts, or damages family, personal, and vocational pursuits (Becona, Lorenzo, and Fuentes 635). One of the most famous people to succumb to the addiction of sports gambling is Art Schlichter.

Art Schlichter was the starting quarterback at Ohio State University from 1975 to 1979. Art started betting on sports in his junior year of college (Valente 83). In 1979, he led the Buckeyes to an 11-1 record and was fourth in the Heisman Trophy balloting. The Baltimore Colts drafted him out of college, and he lost his $300,000 signing bonus due to sports gambling (84). By the time Art had finally hit rock bottom, he had been thrown out of the NFL, bounced $175,000 in checks, almost lost his family, and now is still serving time in jail for the bounced checks (81). Many college students, like Art, try sports gambling for the first time while they are in college.

According to the Las Vegas Veterans Affair Medical Center s Dr. Rena Nora, a psychiatrist who has been treating compulsive gamblers for more than 20 years, Vulnerability to gambling depends on two basic things: accessibility to cash and how clever a person is (Layden 53). By these terms, a lot of college students are vulnerable. The prevalence of sports gambling on college campuses is so widespread that the NCAA has even added a gambling enforcement official. College sports gambling is spreading like an epidemic. Students influence other students. Peer pressure is why many students in college try sports gambling in the first place. When you have gambling on campus, gaming peers promote tendencies to gamble (Browne and Brown 345).

Sports gambling is addictive and prevalent on college campuses, but how can sports gambling affect the integrity of college sports? This question can be answered with phrases such as: point shaving, throwing a game, or fixing a game. A fitting definition that covers all three of these phrases is: an athlete or athletes, for the purpose of gaining money either by being paid by someone or betting themselves, that affects the outcome of a game.

Point shaving scandals in sporting events are mostly restricted to college football and basketball games. Pro athletes have little to gain with their multi-million dollar contracts, which is why college athletes are so susceptible. An athlete looking to make a quick buck or erase a gambling debt to a bookie can be tempted to fix a game. There have been point-shaving scandals from the early 50s to the present. Recent scandals have included such universities as Boston College, Tulane, Northwestern, North Carolina State, Central Florida, Texas, Arizona State, and many others.

One of the more recent scandals and probably the biggest in terms of money wagered, occurred at Arizona State. Two players from the Arizona State men s basketball team in the 1993-94 season were convicted of fixing three games. An article in the magazine Sport by Armen Kereyian called An NCAA Hedlake : the only fix to the growing number of point-shaving scandals is to make the guilty pay called the scandal the most significant sports bribery cases in our nation s history (28). To sum up the story, Hedake Smith, one of the two convicted and ASU s second all-time leading scorer, started gambling on sports and worked up a significant debt to his bookie. His bookie said he could eliminate his debt and earn more by still winning basketball games, but not by too many points(point-shaving). He agreed and the first two games went by unnoticed. In the final game that Smith agreed to shave points, the word had gotten out about how the game was supposed to be fixed. So much money was wagered against ASU in Las Vegas that one Vegas oddsmaker called the Pac-10 to alert it to the possibility that points were being shaved(Confessions Of A Point Shaver 98). During halftime of the game, the coach of ASU yelled at his players about how lousy they were playing, and said that there was an NBA scout in the stands. It occurred to Smith that risking his NBA career by shaving point was not worth it and in the second half of the game ASU blew out their opponents and covered the spread. It was estimated that more that $1 million was bet on that game, when a normal Pac-10 game receives only $50,000 of action (95). In the end, Hedake Smith was caught for the scandal and sacrificed a promising NBA career worth millions of dollars, and is now awaiting sentencing which could land him in jail for his actions in the point-shaving scandal.

As you can see from the story about Hedake Smith, sports gambling can corrupt the athletes that play the game. Not only does gambling on sports affect the athletes that play the game, gambling affects the others students on campus as well. Sports gambling by the student body is also becoming more prevalent throughout the college campuses across the nation. Some solution to the increasing problem of sports gambling needs to be implemented.

The root of the problem begins in Las Vegas. Eliminating sports betting on college games in Las Vegas would significantly reduce the amount wagered on college sports. By eliminating college sports betting in Las Vegas, the oddsmaker would no longer set point spread for college games. By eliminating the point spreads for college games, college athletes would not be put in to a situation where they would be tempted to shave points. The casinos, which offer sportsbooks, in the end provide much of the financial backing for most illegal wagering. The majority of the time, small bookies know a larger bookie. If a lot of the small bookies clientele is wagering the majority of their money on one team, the small bookie (to cover himself in case he loses) will bet on the same team with a larger bookie. In turn, this larger bookie knows an even bigger bookie, and the pattern is repeated until it eventually ends at the Las Vegas sports books. With the seemingly endless amounts of money, this is where a lot of the illegal wagers eventually wind up, at the legal sports books in Las Vegas.

Another area that can not be ignored is the availability of overseas gambling. It would be the government s job to enact and enforce stringent laws to block Internet access to these gambling sites. Laws would have to be developed to prosecute the gambling houses that take bets from the United States. By going after these gambling houses and stopping their operation, the government could stop college students from wagering their money over the Internet. As I see it these gambling houses are the wave of the future for sports gambling. As our society becomes more and more technologically advanced in the future, the effect that sports gambling has on our society will weigh heavily on whether Internet gambling is allowed to operate or not. It may depend on the publics elected officials to vote on an issue such as this, and all people should be informed of the consequences of sports gambling.

Educating the public on the negative effects of sport gambling will play a vital role in eliminating sports gambling. Brochures and advertisement on the negative impacts that sports gambling cause should be readily available to the general public. Many problem gamblers begin while in high school, so by educating the youth before high school may aid in averting gambling problems that may have happened later in the child s life.

Would allowing college sports gambling to be legal everywhere by allowing the states to regulate and tax sportsbetting be a better solution than making it illegal? In 1994, the Florida Office of Planning and Budgeting conducted a study to project the costs of legalizing casino gambling in the state. The biggest potential government expense turned out to be that of incarcerating all the new pathological gamblers who turn to crime. According to the study, Not counting costs of prosecution, restitution or other related costs, incarceration and supervision costs alone for problem gambler criminal incidents could cost Florida residents $6,080,000,000 (Horn 38). This study pretty much speaks for itself. In reality gambling doesn t raise big revenues for governments, it costs the governments and taxpayers big money for the problems that come up with gambling. By making it legal to bet on college games everywhere would just add to the number of point-shaving scandals. More people would be involved in gambling on college games, thus there would be more people looking to make a quick buck by asking a player to fix a game. College athletics already has a monkey on its back for the scandals of the past. The athletes need to earn back the respect of the fans who enjoy to watch them compete. The only way this will happen is if there will never be a scandal, involving fixing a game, to happen again, and the only way this will be happen is through the elimination of gambling on college sports.

It may seem that gambling on college sports is harmless fun for the average sports fanatic who wants to bet some money on his or her favorite team. In reality, however many people have lost everything they had dreamed for due to sports gambling. The integrity of the college sports is suffering due to sports gambling. As the availability of sports gambling increases, more people will suffer the adverse effects that come with it.

Works Cited

Becona, Elisardo, Maria Del Carmen Lorenzo, and Maria Jose Fuentes. Pathological Gambling and Depression. Psychological Reports 78 (1996): 635-40.

Browne, Beverly A. and Daniel J. Brown. Predictors of lottery gambling among American college students. The Journal of Social Psychology 134 (1994): 339- 48.

Campbell, Frank and Lester, David. The impact of gambling opportunities on compulsive gambling. The Journal of Social Psychology 139.1 (1999): 126-8.

Confessions Of A Point Shaver. Sports Illustrated 9 Nov 1998: 92-102.

Devlin, Ann Sloan and Donald M. Peppard Jr. Casino Use By College Students. Psychological Reports 78 (1996): 899-906.

Horn, Bernard P. Is there a cure for America s gambling addiction? USA Today May 1997: 34-7.

Kereyian, Armen. An NCAA Hedlake : the only fix to the growing number of point- shaving scandals is to make the guilty pay. Sport May 1998: 28-30.

Layden, Tim. You bet your life. Sports Illustrated 17 April 1995: 46-54.

McGraw, Dan. The national bet: laying an illegal wager on a sports game has never been easier. And more Americans are doing it than ever. U.S. News & World Report 7 April 1997: 50-6.

Murray, John B. Review of Research on Pathological Gambling. Psychological Reports 72 (1993): 791-810.

Naughton, Jim. Why Athletes Are Vulnerable to Gambling. The Chronicle Of Higher Education 17 April 1998: A51-2.

NCAA target Internet betting. ESPN.com 10 Feb 1999

Oorlog, Dale R. Serial correlation in the wagering market for professional basketball. Quarterly Journal of Business and Economics 34 (1995): 96-110.

Orkin, Mike. Can You Win? New York: W.H. Freeman and Company, 1991.

Pasternak, Andrew V. Pathologic gambling: America s newest addiction? American Family Physician 56 (1997): 1293-96.

Savage, Jeff. A Sure Thing? Washington D.C.: Lerner Publications Company, 1997.

Valente, Judith. A long road to daylight; a fallen football hero fights to break free of the gambling addiction that sacked his career and drove him to prison. People Weekly 15 Jan 1996: 81-7.

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