By CAL Staff
Christian Action League
February 3, 2022
In an article titled, Place Your Bets, NC: The Smart Money is on Making Widespread Sports Gambling Legal, Scott Fowler, a sports columnist for the Charlotte Observer, makes a case for legalizing sports betting in the Tar Heel state. Currently, sports gambling is not permitted.
Fowler’s article is written in anticipation that SB 688 – Sports Wagering, which passed the State Senate last year, will ultimately pass the House and be signed by Governor Roy Cooper.
Although the legislation was championed by Republican Senate Majority Whip Jim Perry (Lenoir), the measure was actually carried to passage by Senate Democrats. Seventeen Democrats voted in favor, and four voted against the bill. Only nine Republicans voted in favor, while fifteen voted against it. Five votes, one Democrat and four Republicans had excused absences, making a total of twenty-six, “ayes,” and nineteen, “noes.”
The initiative now resides with the House and will likely be taken up in the Spring, if not before. Governor Roy Cooper has already signaled he supports the regulation and taxation of sports gambling and would sign the measure.
In addition to legalizing betting on sports events online and via mobile devices, the legislation would allow for professional sports organizations in the state (Carolina Panthers, Charlotte Hornets, Carolina Hurricanes, and Charlotte Motor Speedway) to set up lounges for sports betting. It would even open the door for colleges to be involved.
Fowler’s contentions for legalizing sports gaming in North Carolina are the same old empty arguments used for decriminalizing and authorizing vice. Let’s look at some of his assertions.
Given that people are going to find their way to offshore sportsbooks or local bookies regardless – that’s what they do now – widespread sports gambling in North Carolina should be legalized and legislated. Bring it from the shadows into the sunlight.
Perhaps Fowler’s colleague, Ned Barnett, of the Raleigh News and Observer, in an opposing article titled, Legalizing Betting on Sports is a Losing Gamble, best answers this line of reasoning. Barnett says:
“That sounds reasonable, but it does not reflect what legalization really does. It’s not a matter of simply bringing illegal gamblers in from the shadows. Indeed, many of them are savvy enough to stick with illegal bets that offer better odds and no taxes. What legalization does is create new gamblers, people who see the activity as publicly sanctioned and attractively advertised. No doubt there are far fewer people in North Carolina who played an illegal daily number than those who now play the N.C. Lottery’s daily numbers offered in three and four digits twice daily. Legalized sports betting will follow the same scenario. It’s not about bringing a black market into the sunlight. It’s about creating a new market. And a more dangerous one. [Currently], [w]ould be gamblers need to travel to a casino. Lottery players place smaller and fixed bets. But sports betting will be accelerated by being available on smartphones, creating what’s billed as ‘a casino in your pocket.’ Gamblers will have easier access than they do to a casino and they will spend more than they do on lotteries. The expansion of sports betting using smartphones is particularly threatening to teens. They have been weaned on instant communication and video games. It is an easy transition to apply their digital fluency to betting on sports. North Carolina’s proposed sports betting law would bar anyone under 21 from becoming a registered player. Good luck with that. Minors also aren’t legally allowed to smoke, drink or use drugs.”
Extract as many dollars as possible from it. Set aside a generous sum to help problem gamblers.
Stop Predatory Gambling, an anti-gambling organization based in Washington D.C., addresses this pitch:
“[G]ambling lobbyists and some public officials continue to tout government-sanctioned gambling as a way to raise tax revenue. But history has shown repeatedly that this argument is either overstated or wrong. According to the Rockefeller Institute of Government at State University of New York-Albany, the organization doing the best independent research on public revenues from gambling, states creating new revenue streams from gambling may see momentary bumps in tax income but ‘in the long-run, the growth in state revenues from gambling activities slows or even reverses and declines.’
“[Beyond these concerns], government-sanctioned gambling incurs major social costs that end up footed by all taxpayers. In addition to targeting and exploiting the financially desperate and cultivating addiction, government-sanctioned gambling leads to increases in rates of personal bankruptcy and provides new avenues for crime and money laundering. Gambling operators don’t pay for the harms they cause families, businesses, and communities. Taxpayers do. Lower-income Americans lose money on gambling, get it back by relying on more financial help from their government, who get it from taxpayers.”
Whatever the state may set aside for problem gamblers would be pittance compared to the enormous social costs of sports gambling for everyone.
More than 30 states have already authorized sports wagering, including about a dozen in the past year, according to The New York Times. More than 20 of those states have gone live…If California – mired in a complicated sports gambling fight of its own – authorizes it, too, nearly two-thirds of Americans will live in states that allow or regulate sports betting… Let’s be honest: Sports betting isn’t coming to North Carolina. Sports gambling is here.
Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, responded to this claim, saying:
“Seems like my mother used to say to me, “If everyone jumps into the fire, are you going to jump into the fire too?
“Interestingly, Tyler Hamilton, a world professional cyclist, was one of the cyclists who provided the evidence which brought down Lance Armstrong, the seven times winner of the Tour de France and stripped him of his titles. Hamilton, who was also busted for drugs, said drug use was so prevalent among riders that it seemed entirely justified. Even much of the public agreed and felt that Armstrong was mistreated because everyone was already doing it. But whether everyone was doing it or not, it was still a serious risk to riders’ health, and it was cheating.
“The entire gambling enterprise is based on cheating and exploiting the most vulnerable people in our society – people at risk – financially desperate people – people who are of weaker will and character – people who become addicted. This is where gaming makes its profits – the enterprise cannot prosper except on the backs of these people. It’s evil and immoral, and just because others are doing it is no reason for our state to join this wretched form of manipulation.”
Last, Fowler writes:
Our country’s foray into Prohibition in the 1920s wasn’t a success for anyone except the Mafia and the moonshiners. You were never going to erase alcohol. People wanted it too much. Instead, the best compromise was regulation, as the state does today. The same goes for sports gambling…Because you’re not going to stop it.
Fowler’s argument is the standard mantra for those who support the legalization of a particular vice or vices in general. But it is a widespread myth and a dangerous claim. The fact is Prohibitive laws do work well for three reasons, (1) they work to reduce or curb the practice of whatever activity is being prohibited, (2) they work to educate people about their harms, and (3) they work to protect and preserve the public good.
The late Dr. Norman Geisler and his coauthor Frank Turek have brilliantly written in Legislating Morality:
“When people say that ‘Prohibition failed,’ they usually mean that it could not keep people from drinking. This is, of course, true, but no law is 100 percent successful. We need to take a closer look at Prohibition before judging its success or failure.”
Actually, the Prohibition of alcohol from 1920 to 1933 was not a failure, writes William J. Bennet, the former director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy under President George H.W. Bush. In his book, Going to Pot, Bennet argues:
“That talking point does not fully match reality…if the main goal of Prohibition was to limit or reduce alcohol use and abuse in America [which it was], that did in fact happen… Prohibition had undesirable effects and consequences, but two things are true: it did reduce consumption and resulting negative health and social consequences.”
In an article titled Myths About Prohibition, Dr. Andrew Corbett, President of ICI Theological College Australia, says:
“There is a myth that Prohibition never really changes behavior. But Prohibitive laws do curb behavior. Put another way, what we legislate, we encourage. Most people would acknowledge that murder is wrong. Most people would also deny the possibility that they would ever commit a murder even if there were no laws against it. But most of us intuitively know that if Prohibitions against murder were removed, there would probably be an outbreak of murders…The reality of any Prohibitive law is that some people will never comply with it. But this doesn’t mean the Prohibition should be removed. Secondly, while Prohibition will generally change societal attitudes, it is unrealistic to expect unanimous societal endorsement [or adherence] for every Prohibition.”
If sports betting is legalized, it will be a losing bet for North Carolinians and the country.
“Nothing of value will be produced or created by it. There is only a redistribution of currency on an inequitable basis,” said Rev. Creech. “What this is about is financial fraud and taking advantage of our state’s citizens. State lawmakers should see it as such and protect their interests by defeating this bill. Fowler’s arguments, as well as the arguments of other proponents of this legislation, are foul!”