Anti-Gambling Washington Post Thinks Sports Betting Is A Suckerís Game

Anti-Gambling Washington Post Thinks Sports Betting Is A Suckerís Game

Get a load of this serf.

Some dude named Thomas Boswell – who touts his bona fides as a baseball betting expert because he has watched and written about a lot of baseball over the years (but never once bothered to study the wagering aspect of it) – is really disgusted with this whole “legal sports betting”/self-determination thing. The headline of his misinformed pile of statist sputum reads as follows:

“If legalized gambling is the future, our sports are really in trouble”

Naturally, he bases this on the fact that sports betting is somehow bad for fans and bad for sports. Here are his arguments, followed by the basic dismissals that present themselves for each one.

First, goober here makes the point that a lot of pro-sports-betting pundits are comparing gambling to the stock market. For reasons known only to himself, he says this about that:

“The analogy of sports gambling to the stock market is especially deceitful. Betting on a team, giving six points, is not at all like investing your 401(k) money into a broad index fund that is virtually certain to grow over decades.”

Where to begin.

Well, for starters, every single state betting law (and all of the remaining federal betting laws, as well as the erstwhile PASPA) specifically exempts the stock market, because it is gambling by definition! Why Boswell limits stock investments to money housed in an investor’s 401(k) is anyone’s guess, but conflating “the stock market” with one tiny investment strategy in a huge sea of options and offerings is hardly convincing. It’s dishonest. Lying by omission is never a compelling argument, particularly when your audience understands the subject better than you.

“If you want to damage a sport, sour the public toward its games while also maximizing the amount of money lost, and the number of addicts createdthen (sic) legalize sports betting.”

Presumably, Boswell is under the impression that legalizing something increases access and addiction to that something. Of course, there are no convincing studies on this re gambling (or anything else), but the opposite has shown to be a fundamental societal rule. Prohibition didn’t work. How’s the War on Drugs going? Aren’t PEDs illegal in baseball? And as far as “souring the public” on the sport, I’m not sure the public is dumb enough to think that legal sports betting handled under a microscope by all parties involved is more dangerous and more likely to cause match-fixing than illegal sports betting (estimated to be a $400 billion industry in the US) that operates in the shadows outside the purview of any regulatory oversight. Tim Donaghy agrees.

Now, Boswell’s ire isn’t just at the government or the Supreme Court for allowing states to set their own industrial standards as provided for by the founding documents of the United States. No, he’s in full watchdog mode, to boot. It’s kind of cute, in that sad, misinformed, “let’s-hope-he-grows-out-of-it” kind of meddling, barren-nanny way:

“[Legal sports betting is] a gigantic scam. Everyone in favor of it is looking to make a buck — a huge buck. Not one of them will ever be stupid enough to place a sports bet that amounts to more than play money. That’s being left up to you, the sucker born every minute.

Soon, if they have their way, you will be bombarded by analysis, tips and odds from insiders and experts on every screen of every device you own … An industry of advisors will materialize to “help” you.

All of them will tell you that gambling on pro sports is a skill, a talent you can acquire or perhaps a gift that is uniquely yours. They just want to help you.

They all will be lying.

Very few are as qualified as I am to help you bet on baseball […and] I don’t have a clue. ...

No one else has a clue either — not against the odds, which are always tilted toward the house.”

Oh, man. Seriously. Dude.

Ignoring the whole bit about you apparently not liking sports betting because you suck at it, let’s consider the actual (non-)factual basis of the above.

First of all, a completely superficial, even cursory bit of research into the world of gambling will reveal that sports betting invariably has the smallest profit-margin of all mainstream gambling forms for the operator. A Las Vegas sportsbook (hundreds of which, by the way, have been legally accepting sports bets for decades now, with no sign of any of the ills Boswell describes in his childlike screed) – if they’re very lucky and very popular – will make a profit of between $2 million and $5 million a year. Their take on all the action they process is in the realm of 5%.

Compare this to the rate of casino profits on slots or table games, where the rules are built around known empirical facts. Compare it to the vig at the racetrack. But you can’t – not really. Because there is no comparison. The fact is that if Daddy Boswell is concerned for the financial futures of those placing wagers, he’s barking up the shortest tree to reach the absolute lowest-hanging fruit. You want to see a scam? Check out how much your state lottery makes off the backs of people who can’t afford to play. Then come back at me about how sports betting is for suckers.

The simple reality is this: Sports betting is unambiguously the least “destructive” form of gambling when it comes to the risk to the average player’s finances. In other words, a bad sports bettor will lose less money over a longer period of time than an unlucky player of literally any other gambling amusement. Sports betting, financially speaking, is the safest form of gambling in existence. It is practically a coin flip.

And to Boswell’s notion that sports betting’s odds “are always tilted towards the house,” he couldn’t be more wrong if he tried (which is a typical outcome when you do literally no research before bloviating as some holier-than-thou expert on the sins of this and that).

Guess what? There are no built-in odds to favor the house when it comes to sports betting. Know why? Because sportsbooks – in setting their lines – are just guessing! They have no special information that every bettor isn’t privy to, and they have no possible way to build in any kind of house edge re the odds. No sportsbook is any more likely to win a wager than a person placing a bet with them. That’s why sportsbooks operate on the principle and basis of the moneyline. With the moneyline, the house makes money on every bet posted (which is an advertised and understood premium known in advance by the bettor), and that’s pretty much all the money they make.

And guess what else? Bad luck can put a sportsbook in the red as quickly as it can the average bettor. It’s happened before, and it will happen again. A sportsbook’s only job is to set a line that attracts roughly the same amount of action on both sides of the bet so they can maximize their cut. Nothing more, nothing less. A sportsbook is happy to collect its 5%. A casino? Not so much. And a state lottery? LOL.

Moving on:

“In any group of fans, the most jaded and prone-to-anger are usually the gamblers. (I base this on lifelong observation.) … We cheer for wins, but we also admire the virtues of great athletes and the mental health of those who face defeat with resilience. We even value sportsmanship.”

So, gamblers are jaded and prone to anger more than “regular fans”? Really? Of course, not really. He admits that this is based on “lifelong observation,” which is worthless. Because you can neutralize an anecdote with another anecdote. Allow me “disprove” his position:

In any group of fans, the most jaded and prone-to-anger are usually the ones that drink too much during the game. (I base this on lifelong observation.) Take the booze out of the ballpark, and what happens? Less anger. Fewer fights. And far fewer fans. So we can’t do that. Let’s find a different bogeyman, eh?

And all this hokum about the “virtues of great athletes” and the “mental health of those who face defeat with resilience”? Good God, man! These aren’t supermen to put on a pedestal, these are regular human beings doing their jobs. They don’t sacrifice anything more than anyone else who wakes up in the morning and goes to work. In fact, these guys are far more “privileged” than most of society, because they actually get paid (handsomely!) to do what they love.

And regardless of how well they enjoy their jobs (or how much they hate them), they are not any more mentally strong than the guy who gets up every day and grinds through a rough 8 hours of slinging hash or delivering packages or entering column after column of banking data into a blinking little terminal under the fluorescent lights in some lonely basement downtown.

And the whole “mental health” thing? Tell me again how athletes in these leagues emphasize and underscore “mental well-adjustment.” Pick any sport and check the list of currently-suspended players, then report back. I’ll wait.

Look, life is hard. If you want to worship celebrities as being more righteous and worthy than your “nobody” neighbor, that’s on you, but it kind of makes you a giant scumbag. Hero worship is not something that adults should indulge in. Of course, this mook made his career off of writing about the hard work of others, of analyzing their mistakes and their shortcomings or praising as heroic and superhuman their menial successes in a literal game. What does that say? Where’s the integrity in that? Fans shouldn’t make some money off of players, but Boswell should? Convenient.

Moving on, Boswell is saltier still:

“If mom, dad, sis and bro are making prop bets during the seventh-inning stretch, is that going to promote lifelong fandom, loyalty to a home team and an affinity-group community? Or is that going to encourage mom, dad or whomever to break out the four-letter words for the stupid manager who ‘cost us money.’”

Well, gee whiz. I wasn’t aware that fandom of any team was a one-way street. Sure, the government usually forces fans and (non-fans!) to fund stadiums worth hundreds of millions of dollars so teams worth billions don’t have to foot the bill. Yeah, sports apparel being hawked everywhere in eyeshot is uniformly overpriced. And yes, the ticket and concession prices involved in taking a family of four to the ballpark for an afternoon are utterly absurd. But let’s forget that. These millionaires having the time of their lives deserve your funding. You? You deserve to cheer when you’re supposed to, root for one team and one team only, be a lifelong fan, and more or less STFU if you’re not the kind of homer Boswell thinks you should be.

But wait, there’s more!

“A different problem: How many casinos or race tracks don’t feel either trashy rich or down-at-heel tacky? There are exceptions, but the gambling culture usually defines the experience wherever it goes. In 10 years, do you want Nats Park to feel like a homage to FanDuels? Leonsis predicts there will be “screens everywhere” with gambling data and vendors at your seat offering you a soda or a prop bet. Will the ambiance of Ka-Ching Arena make FedEx Field feel like St. Patrick’s Cathedral?”

Guess what, genius: There are already screens everywhere. Are you small-minded and simple enough to think that these venues are going to install screens at every seat for every patron when all those patrons already have screens in their pockets? Online sports betting is a thing. It’s been a thing for years. And so is geo-fencing. Put them together, and your (I hesitate to call it an) argument falls apart.

And now, for the hallmark of the specious argument itself, I give you “Think of the children!” Says Boswell:

“Legalized sports gambling is just a land-grab by states, owners and leagues trying to get into your wallet, and your kids’ wallets, and encourage you through every form of advertising to gamble more.”

If you, a parent in 2018, are dumb enough to give the above even a modicum of consideration or credence, heaven help you. And heaven help your kids, because sports betting ads will be the least of their problems.

Less insultingly, a bit of advice: Hide something from your kid, and its allure grows exponentially. If you don’t like sports betting, tell your kid – despite the advertisements – why you don’t like sports betting and why they shouldn’t like it, either.

And when is Boswell going to address the beer commercials and booze sponsorships rampant in anything and everything sports-related? Is he willing to blame the “epidemic” of underage drinking – or, going forward, legal adult alcoholism – on Budweiser ads during the Super Bowl? Hey Boswell, stop trying to be the parent to strangers’ kids. It’s creepy. After all, parents should be empowered to make their own decisions for their children, right?

Now, a very strange interpretation of rights from the esteemed Moral Baseball Man:

“If you also make your product seem mainstream — not merely acceptable but desirable, not just a purchase but almost an inalienable right of the public in its pursuit of happiness — then you’ve hit the lottery (so to speak).”

So spending one’s money in a victimless manner on an entertainment pastime as one sees fit isn’t an inalienable right, or shouldn’t be one? Should people not be able to enter into non-violent, non-aggressive, voluntary financial contracts with whomever they wish? Is that the message here? I’m genuinely baffled that someone with a functioning brainstem would bring this up, much less in a mocking, dismissive way. People spending their own money on a harmless product for their own enjoyment? How patently absurd!

OK, that’s almost all of it. But now, at the very end, it’s litmus test time: With the following comment, is Boswell describing the economic and societal reality of the sports industry or the sports betting industry? Read carefully:

“[I]f your product provides an emotional roller-coaster ride, if it has properties that are addictive to some and exciting to all, then you can sell it in mass quantities to citizens even if, right on the package, you warn the customer that the more of the product they buy, the more money they are likely to lose.”

Give up? I’ll give you a hint: With sports betting, you actually get a warning.

Bonus: At the very end of Boswell’s nonsensical diatribe, the Washington Post is running an ad for their “Fantasy Football Tip Sheet Newsletter,” which is “Your cheat sheet for weekly fantasy domination, delivered on Thursdays during the NFL season.”

I assume the irony is lost on Mr. Boswell.

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