When last I checked—a few weeks ago—Bill C-290, the sports gambling bill, was still thought to be “many weeks” away from a vote in the Senate. In the New Yorker recently, James Surowiecki, considering recent developments in the United States, argued in favour of legalized sports gambling.
The ban on sports betting does exactly what Prohibition did. It makes criminals rich. People still gamble, after all: the National Gambling Impact Study Commission estimates that more than three hundred billion dollars is bet on games annually. Legalized sports betting would bring in significant tax revenues for the states—Drazin estimates that Monmouth Park could take in a billion dollars in bets in its first year—and it would leave cops and prosecutors free to go after crimes with real victims. As for the concern that legalization would encourage shady behavior, the truth is that legal and regulated betting makes it easier, not harder, to spot things like point-shaving. One of the biggest college point-shaving scandals of the past twenty years was uncovered when Vegas bookies noted unusual betting activity on certain games and reported it to the authorities.