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The Big Sellout

State of the Union: Gambling interests continue to entrench themselves in our political economy, irrespective of any harms.

The Disney-owned sports news giant ESPN reached a deal with gaming interest Penn Entertainment to rebrand its Barstool Sportsbook as an ESPN property, per a Tuesday announcement. The $2 billion deal is only the latest installment of a multi-year sports betting expansion frenzy.

As we have noted before, as long as legal online bookmaking exists, the integrity of American sports will fall to roughly what we expect from horse-racing, which is to say, not much; a string of football players recently disciplined for betting on NFL games shows that this is a real issue, not a perfervid neopuritan fantasy. Yet gambling is continuing to work its way more thoroughly into the fabric of American sports culture almost entirely unopposed. 


With the mass disaffiliation from and softening of American Protestant Christianity, with its suspicion of fun in general and gambling in particular, who will ask the question Is this a good idea? It’s hard to say. It looks like, as with every other social deregulation, we’ll wait to do anything until after the damage is done.