Legalized sports gambling is coming to more jurisdictions in the United States. This is prompting thoughts that Canadian governments need to get into the sports wagering action lest they be left outside of this lucrative revenue stream. The argument made is the moral question is dead, failure to act will leave provincial governments out of a growing gambling revenue stream, attract more money from outside the jurisdiction in the form of tourists, and see less money from local citizens be gambled elsewhere. No one seems to look at the other factors to be considered around this issue.
Sports gambling, wagering and gaming have been around for a long time and have moved into the mainstream from behind closed doors in recent decades. However, unlike casino gambling that governments have embraced over the past 20-30 years, there is an affect on other institutions, namely the professional and amateur sport ranks. Certainly the lessons of the Chicago Black Sox scandal, Pete Rose, Tim Donaghy, and Rick Tocchet show that gambling has a corrupting influence on sports. While regulating it at the sports level seems like the solution, rules banning it were in place for all the above examples.
Placing the government in charge of sports gambling is a risk in itself. Not only have they allowed $200 million in false winnings to be collected in their lottery games, but have made mistakes on their existing Pro-Line sports wagering business (I can only find this anecdotal reference to a $900,000 soccer mistake). There is also no evidence that the government act responsibly with the billions they raise from gambling today. Additional billions will increase the income statement for the provincial coffers, but the money will not be targeted to any specific social infrastructure area to benefit all.
Finally, there is a social cost to increased gambling. Moral issue aside, the advent of casino gambling and VLT’s in Canada brought increased gambling addictions. This in turn has increased the theft and fraud of businesses, charities and governments as well as personal bankruptcy. When the government tells people to start practicing their happy dance for their sports wagering, how many more will be caught up in dreams of hitting it big?
I see that real government sports book will eventually come. They will not resistant to ignoring a new revenue stream. I am satisfied with small charity games and the lottery sports offerings available today. Adding betting on individual games will only cause problems for sports and that is what is most important to me, not the side wagers.