Politics and Policy

Why Sports Betting Should Be Legal

On May 14, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government could not prevent states from legalizing sports betting. Previously, Nevada was the only state allowed to have sports betting as they were grandfathered in under the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA) which banned sports betting in all 49 other states. Now that the Supreme Court has struck down PASPA, sports betting is a states’ rights issue similar to marijuana, where any state is free to legalize it.

Some states have already legalized sports betting, including New Jersey, Mississippi, and Delaware. Other states such as Illinois, California, and Maryland have legislation in the works to do the same. According to ESPN, 26 states have made progress towards legalizing sports betting.

Frankly, this ruling from the Supreme Court is long overdue, and PASPA never should have existed in the first place. Justice Alito succinctly stated in the majority opinion, “the provision was unconstitutional because the Constitution does not empower Congress to subject state governments to this type of instruction.” In other words, the federal government has no business preventing states from legalizing sports betting.

Later in the opinion, Justice Alito mentioned one of the original motives for PASPA was to protect young people, who may be more prone to unhealthy gambling habits. While this is certainly a reasonable concern, it falls outside the role of government.

Betting on sports does not violate the non-aggression principle (NAP) in any way, so to ban it on the grounds of morality is not logical. Additionally, there are no controlled substances of any sort involved, so to ban gambling for health concerns does not make sense either.

Like alcohol, gambling is only harmful if you do not act responsibly. Furthermore, while irresponsible alcohol consumption can harm people who are not involved in the act of drinking, irresponsible sports gambling only harms the individual who was gambling (with the potential exception of family members who rely on that individual financially). In other words, sports betting is much safer than alcohol, and alcohol is legal, so it’s only logical for sports betting to be legal as well.

Relatedly, there is no shortage of ways for people to legally spend their money irresponsibly. If the government cannot prevent you racking up tens of thousands of dollars in loans and credit card debt, why should the government be able to prevent you from putting a $10 bet on your favorite NFL team? It’s simply illogical. 

It is not the government’s job to baby us and essentially put a Fisher Price cage around everyone for the sake of preventing foolish people from doing foolish things. Are some people going to gamble irresponsibly? Yes. But the rest of us should not have our freedom restricted by the government because of them. The Supreme Court made the right decision to strike down PASPA, and hopefully, many states will soon grant their people the liberty to bet on sports as they please.


Follow the author on Twitter @patthomas96


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