By Rev. Mark Creech
Christian Action League
June 17, 2022
The issue of gambling may not be as emotionally charged as abortion, critical race theory, or drag queen story days. Still, the increased support for gambling is indicative of a major shift in American culture. Although North Carolina has generally been opposed to gambling, the Tar Heel state also feels the change.
The North Carolina Education Lottery, which passed by only one vote in 2005, was started in 2006. The Cherokee Nation has two casinos on their reservation, and they upped their gaming from electronic games to Las Vegas-style gambling in 2012. Last year, the Catawba Indians opened a casino in Kings Mountain, despite litigation by the Cherokee and the residents of Cleveland County’s strong opposition. Video poker, which was widespread in the state, was banned in 2007, but the rise of Sweepstakes Parlors followed close on its heels. State legislators banned Sweepstakes parlors in 2010, a prohibition that didn’t take effect until 2013 because of lawsuits by the industry. Though there has been considerable debate concerning the new games now played in Sweepstakes parlors and whether they operate in a gray area that isn’t allegedly covered by the ban, the North Carolina Supreme Court made it abundantly clear last year in a ruling that these establishments run afoul of the law. Still, many remain open.
The General Assembly’s fight to keep its finger in the dyke has been exhausting, and many lawmakers seem tired of dealing with it. In recent years, several proposals to legalize gambling have been put forward, especially the type which facilitates gambling online.
Currently, SB 688 – Sports Wagering, a measure that would authorize sports betting in the state, has already passed the Senate and is now being debated in the House.
A common refrain among lawmakers about SB 688 is that the legalization of sports betting is inevitable. “People are already doing it. The state may as well legalize, regulate, tax, and garner additional revenue from it,” they say.
Not exactly a “Profiles in Courage” response.
SB 688 would be the most significant gambling expansion in the state’s history. In addition to allowing non-stop sports gambling advertisements, betting, and events online via computers, tablets, smartphones, and TV, the bill would allow for professional sports organizations in the state (Carolina Panthers, Charlotte Hornets, Carolina Hurricanes, and Charlotte Motor Speedway) to set up lounges for betting, while also opening the door for colleges to get involved.
With an anxious tone in his voice, John Rustin, president of the North Carolina Family Policy Council, recently told the House Commerce Committee, “We have no idea what the effects might be for our colleges and universities to enter into ‘commercial agreements’ with state-sanctioned gambling bookies.”
Well, perhaps we do. Four years ago, the Raleigh News and Observer did a story about how sports gambling once seriously “tainted” college basketball at North Carolina State and the University of North Carolina.
“While many years have passed, it’s hard to overlook what occurred after the 1960-61 season, when a point-shaving scandal was uncovered.” The games were fixed, reported the N&O, which “would bring an end to the Dixie Classic, a popular Christmastime tournament…”
Bill Friday, the president of UNC at the time, was told “by a Wake County prosecutor that gamblers had paid Wolfpack players to fix a Dixie Classic game. The prosecutor told Friday that the gamblers, unhappy with the Pack’s final point spread, confronted the players with guns outside of Reynold’s Coliseum, demanding the players return the money they had received.”
It turned out four players from N.C. State and two from UNC were involved. “Nor was the scandal limited to North Carolina. It would touch more than 20 schools in all and more than 50 basketball players.”
Friday, who passed away in 2012, told the N&O in a 1995 interview that “the intrusion of gambling” was the reason for ending the Dixie Classic. He told the newspaper that “the threats to lives reported to [him] by law enforcement officers triggered the action.”
In a 2006 interview, the beloved state icon warned that sports gambling would saddle athletes with titanic pressures, and with millions of dollars on the line, it would create “enormous temptation.”
Allegations of point-shaving raised their ugly heads again at N.C. State in 1990, when ABC News reported that Robert Kramer, a New Jersey businessman, had paid player Charles Shackleford from Kinston to fix games in the 1987-88 basketball season. Shackleford denied the point-shaving and was never indicted. Still, the scandal would result in Coach Jim Valvano’s resignation, although the allegations against Shackleford and Valvano were never proven.
State lawmakers are being remarkably imprudent if they think the legalization of sports gambling would not result in fixing the outcomes of the games.
Mark Varga, a political consultant writing for The New Republic, notes how mass sports betting on international soccer has seriously diminished the integrity of the games, players, referees, club presidents, and league officials. He concludes:
“[W]hen market rules replace sports rules, and when gambling odds become the standard unit of measurement for the quality of a game and its players, the game itself changes: It becomes not about who wins on the field, but who wins off of it.”
North Carolinians have historically kept gambling at arm’s length. It was tolerated in bingo games and raffles, but never promoted. Liberal Democrats and Republicans staunchly opposed it. The pressure is ramped up now as never before to make gambling more acceptable and accessible.
Yet one thing has never changed: the broken promises, the broken dreams, and the broken lives that follow in the wake of gambling’s legalization.
TAKE ACTION NOW:
Here are a few simple steps you can take to help stop sports wagering from passing in the North Carolina General Assembly:
- Would you please pray earnestly at this very moment for the defeat or failure of this legislation?
- Send an email in your own words urging your state Representative to VOTE AGAINST SB 688 – Sports Wagering. (Be sure to tell him/her that you are a constituent.)
- If you don’t know who represents you in the N.C. House, CLICK HERE and follow the prompts. You will also find his/her contact information via the same link.
- Follow up your email with a phone call to your state Representative and reiterate what you said in your email. (Be sure to tell him/her that you are a constituent.)
- Please send your best gift to the Christian Action League to help us win this fight. CLICK HERE to make a secure online donation immediately.
To send your donation by mail, write:
Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc.
6325 Falls of Neuse Rd.
Raleigh, NC 27615