Gambling in Delaware is a sure bet

Wednesday May 27th, 2009

To me, the United States gets more and more conflicted. People argue whether we're a center-right or center-left country. But suppose there's no center anymore, so we're just center-less?

Nothing illustrates this, our national ambiguity, more than the issue of sports gambling. Granted, in a time of economic distress and war and declining ratings for American Idol, betting on sports is not a pressing concern upon the republic ... but it is illustrative of our contradictions and, well, our hypocrisy. In this two-fisted land, where "Put your money where yer mouth is" and "Wanna bet" and "Put up or shut up" are among the first expressions that real boys learn, we actually remain backward and tormented about gambling.

The U.S. is, for example, the veritable capital of cyberspace, but we've been found to be in violation of World Trade Organization obligations because we, almost alone amongst civilized nations, prohibit internet betting.

Or consider the great little state of Delaware, where new legislation would allow sports books to operate -- a distinction now owned only by Nevada. The nerve of Delaware -- it's caused an absolute conniption fit amongst sports organizations, especially the National Football League.

My gracious. Everybody knows the NFL is the most popular game to bet, with billions wagered illegally on point spreads. Why would you be against letting folks bet legally rather than with the mob -- especially in these parlous times? Delaware can make more than $50 million a year in taxes from sports books. Moreover, it's estimated that the U.S. will give up $52 billion in the next decade if we continue to prohibit betting on the internet. In sensible recognition thereof, Congressman Barney Frank, one of the few grown-ups in Washington, will soon hold hearings on his bill to bring the United States up to modern speed by legalizing internet gambling.

But then, it's no wonder the WTO still thinks we're goofy. Why should only one state out of 50 offer legal sports betting on human beings? Why should betting on four-legged creatures be allowed, but wagering on our fellow upright athletes be a sin? Why do we condone lotteries and slot machines, which are, essentially, devices regulated to tax poorer citizens, while denying sports betting, which requires at least a smidgeon of intelligence?

And talk about two-faced. At the same time that the NFL is trying to influence the Delaware Supreme Court to limit sport wagering, the league has urged its franchises to make money licensing their team logos to state lotteries. The Washington Redskins have already signed a deal with the Virginia lottery. I see, betting is just fine with the NFL when it gets a cut.

Of course, honesty compels me to acknowledge that there is a personal reason why I want bettors to have a chance to wager in Delaware. I met my wife there. Trust me. It's a place where you can make a good bet.

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