April 25, 2024

Gambling revenue has provided a lifeline to the leagues and team owners as well. The increase in cord-cutting is depriving them of lucrative TV revenue, and younger generations are showing less interest in watching full games. Gambling helps to generate interest in games, perhaps even entire leagues, that one might not consider watching otherwise. Last October, The Washington Post reported that the NFL makes $132 million per year from gambling-related sponsorships, up from $35 million in 2018. Ditto the NBA, MLB, NHL, and so on.

Meanwhile, the very lobbying organization that brags about how much the leagues stand to gain from legal sports betting also waves away any suggestion that it’s creating more misery in America. “I don’t believe that there is an addiction to mobile betting any more than there is an addiction to utilization of your phone for any other reason,” American Gaming Association president Bill Miller told 60 Minutes in February. He was skeptical that gambling addiction had risen since 2018, and said that if indeed there’s an apparent increase, then it could be due to the industry more aggressively flagging at-risk bettors.

There will continue to be sports betting scandals that generate headlines like the ones we’ve seen in recent weeks. Athletes—young, rich, usually male—are, like their cohort, susceptible to problem gambling. There may not be a scandal on par with, say, the 1919 Black Sox, but Porter-esque mini-scandals are likely to recur. And yet, the big scandal is receiving significantly less attention. The embrace of sports gambling is causing addiction, bankruptcy, and societal breakdown. Politicians and sports leagues are responsible—and they won’t even admit it, let alone do anything about it.