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More Gambling Scandals for the NFL

State of the Union: Sports betting stands in direct opposition to the actual underlying idea of sports.
(Dan Schoedel, Idibri/Flickr)

Four more professional football players have received disciplinary suspensions for violating the NFL’s gambling policy. The Indianapolis Colts’ Isaiah Rodgers and Rashod Barry and the free agent Demetrius Taylor got indefinite bans for betting on football; the Colts waived Rodgers and Barry almost immediately following the announcement. The Tennessee Titans’ Nicholas Petit-Frere is out six games for betting on other sports.

Doesn’t this problem with broadly legal online bookmaking seem obvious in retrospect? We have introduced both the opportunity and incentive to compromise the integrity of a given sport. While fixed events—the sports-themed theater of professional wrestling, for example—may have their entertainment value, at the end of the day, the appeal of sports as such is the showcase of excellence, the true competition between athletes. Sports betting cannot help but compromise this appeal, throwing a shadow over every outcome, even over every point scored.


Gambling is, at best, a highly context-dependent good. (I write about this at length in the latest print edition of The American Conservative.) When deregulated so as to be ubiquitous, it serves as a classic case of letting short-run economic gains trump the value of our longstanding institutions. Was it worth trashing some of the few broadly unifying American institutions, the professional and college sports leagues, so states could add tenths of a percent to their education budgets? That seems like a bad bet.