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Column: No problem here with sports gambling becoming legal

Column – Yes, people are addicted to gambling, but the Georgia lottery is alive and well and money from it goes to a good cause like education.”

The views of the author are not necessarily the views of AllonGeorgia.

Will I watch a sporting event tonight?

The answer to that is probably yes. But thing is, there is really only one game that interests me.

That would be Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers.

I’m not betting on the game, but if I were to bet money with a friend or maybe a future lunch, I’d take the Cavaliers getting the point the odds-makers are giving them and I’d also take them in a pick ’em game which I’ve seen today as well.

But, let’s pretend for a second that sports wagering became legal today in Georgia.

With nothing better to do, if the rain were hold off and if the sand gnats would agree not to bite, I might be inclined to call a friend and see if he were interested in watching the game over a drink and some chips and salsa.

Instead of going to the local pub like usual, I might suggest the new beer garden – the one with several big-screens, high-top tables and friendly wait staff – at the foot of the Sidney Lanier Bridge near the loading dock for the Emerald Princess II casino boat.

You see, the basketball game might be more interesting if I could lay down $10 on LeBron James and Company, eat some chips and maybe a burger and sweet potato fries and chase a Bud Light or Michelob Ultra with several glasses of sweet tea while watching the roundball action on the huge wide-screen in the cool little setup that the Emerald Princess built next to its new sports-wagering window on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean.

Right now, this can’t happen. Sports gambling is currently not legal in the Peach State and the Emerald Princess does not have an on-shore sports gambling window. You still have to get out in international waters to bet with its sports book.

But at some point, this scenario that I dreamed up could become a reality after Monday’s ruling by the Supreme Court that the old Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act is unconstitutional, setting the stage for individual states to decide if they want to offer sports betting.

Some states – with New Jersey as the main one – have been chomping at the bit to make sports gambling legal within their boundaries. Jersey may even be set up to do so in time for the NBA Finals, featuring King James against the Golden State Warriors once again. (Obviously, this match-up isn’t official just yet, but it will be. So bet on it to happen if you like and if you still can.)

Other states such as West Virginia, Delaware, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Mississippi which have all already introduced legislation that would make sports wagering legal in their states might even be ready to go by this coming football season.

As you might imagine, passing something such as this through state government takes time. It’s a process that can take months to push through and then many more to get the operation ready to function properly.

And here in Georgia, we oftentimes move on such matters as slowly as we talk which means it could be years before we see windows opening to take sports bets on the Bulldogs, Braves, Falcons or Hawks.

And, it may never happen, to be honest.

But, here’s thinking it will at some point, and when it does, it won’t bother me, despite my usual conservative nature.

Heck, I might even be at the front of the line on Day 1.

I’m not addicted to gambling, not even when it comes to sports and siding with underdogs or favorites in relation to the point spread.

I’ve only been to Las Vegas once and that was a trip to see the Strip, the bright lights, the shows and the Grand Canyon more so than putting a quarter in a slot machine or telling the dealer to hit me in a game of Black Jack.

But yes, I did have to place a few sports bets while I was there, what real sports fan wouldn’t do that?

So, while strolling through Caesars Palace on a hot Saturday afternoon, I took the Braves against whoever they were playing that day and also placed a futures bet on the Green Bay Packers winning the next Super Bowl.

I remember the cashier telling me that was a good bet in regard to my Packers pick as she handed me the ticket. Well, for the record, the Packers didn’t win the Lombardi Trophy that next football season and the Braves didn’t win that day, either. I went 0-for-2 in Vegas!

I did actually like my Green Bay choice, but really I was just placing those in-person bets that were totally legal for a bucket-list type thing as much as anything.

For me, if Georgia did ever legalize sports wagering, I might be at the front of the line at first, but would eventually probably be at the back and then not in line at all. The novelty would wear off, much like buying a lottery or scratch-off ticket now.

In my opinion, this decision by the Supreme Court to allow states to decide for themselves where they stand on sports betting really wasn’t the so-called landmark decision that some of the television and radio folks have said it is in the past 24 hours.

After all, Americans spend some $150 billion annually placing bets on sports, most of which is done so illegally.

Sports gambling has existed and always will, legal or not. So, why continue to fight it?

I understand the concerns such as addiction and the big sports organizations such as the NBA, MLB, NFL and NCAA wanting to protect the integrity of their games.

But people get addicted to alcohol, and we’ve made it even easier in Georgia to get it, such as relaxed restrictions on Sunday sales.

Yes, people are addicted to gambling, but the Georgia lottery is alive and well and money from it goes to a good cause like education.

So, why not allow sports gambling? Let folks like those running the casinos make money and create jobs and pay the state to operate and let the state put the money toward another good cause, whatever that may be.

I understand the big organizations like the NBA wanting to protect the integrity of their games, but make no mistake this thing they want called “integrity fees” because they contend there wouldn’t be sports gambling without their products to gamble on, is as much about them getting their share of the dollars as them making sure no one is taking a bribe to purposefully throw a game.

And really, I agree with those that argue that regulated gambling would make it harder to “fix” games because the people monitoring the daily wagering by the customers can see where strange occurrences might take place and could possibly catch the criminals more easily than in the past.

That’s because the bookies taking illegal bets in the past couldn’t spill the beans in such cases as the Tulane point-shaving case in the 1980s because they weren’t operating above-board either.

In summary, I don’t see Georgia lawmakers going right to work on this so people here can do three-team parlays and teasers and bet the over for the Georgia-Florida game at the neighborhood convenience store in rural areas or casinos in metro Atlanta or ones along the shores of the Atlantic Ocean in Savannah or the Golden Isles.

But it will eventually happen.

And it should, actually sooner rather than later.

Kevin Price is a freelance writer for AllOnGeorgia with more than 20 years experience in journalism and communications.

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