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Bernstein: A Non-Gambler's Reaction To Legalized Sports Gambling

More interest in and intelligent analysis about sports is good for all.

Dan Bernstein
May 14, 2018 - 1:09 pm

By Dan Bernstein-- senior columnist

(670 The Score) We were all pretty sure it was coming, but it still felt huge when it arrived. The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday invalidated the law mandating states to prevent sports gambling, and just like that our world changed. New Jersey won the right to become a bookmaker, so now it's only a matter of time until everywhere else follows suit in pursuit of billions in revenue that was previously spent illegally, unregulated and un-taxed.

Big bets on this ruling had already been made by such media outlets as VSiN and the Action Network, with other mainstream companies creating new verticals to serve a clientele more concerned with spreads and totals and their own winnings than just the performance of a favorite team or player. Daily fantasy sites can now drop any pretense that that they are anything but wagering by another name, the existing casino industries can pursue a new revenue stream and the major sports leagues now also will angle for as much of the larger pie as possible, pursuant to whatever new governmental oversight structures exist.

And for those of us who don't bet -- either lacking that particular gene that craves such connection to a game or just having a distaste for losing money that isn't close to being counterbalanced by any joy of winning it -- it may not make that much of a difference beyond creating a rising tide that lifts all ships in sports media.

More interest is more interest for whatever reason, is the primary takeaway. And rational, intelligent analysis to better understand performance likelihoods is inherently interesting and valuable even for someone with nothing necessarily at stake.

I learned this from hearing the best fantasy football experts preview a given weekend over the years, with someone like Paul Charchian helping me understand trends and possibilities that applied beyond just setting up a roster. Smart information doesn't become any less so when presented for betting purposes, if our shared goal continues to be a better understanding of why things happen the way they do. We can't revel in being on the winning side of the statistical revolution in sports without welcoming its value in helping people make predictive choices.

And the environment surrounding sports gambling has evolved from Runyonesque characters waving wads of bills in smoky back rooms to one of sleek and glowing screens manned by MBAs looking for the next marginal market inequity. It's all cleaner and smarter, and making it above board officially now goes further to remove previous stigma.

If easier accessibility and convenience mean more people are likely to bet, it means more people paying close attention to sports and caring about why things will happen or have happened. That's good.

There will be all kinds of hiccups, mistakes, false starts and unintended consequences to be sure, but pulling an already existing sub-economy out of the darkness and into the light will ultimately be seen as the right move -- and one that took way too long in this country.

We will still all be able to talk about sports however we want, too, with a new acknowledgement and awareness of gambling interests bringing with it new kinds of data and ways of processing information that might just make it even more compelling for those of us who have never felt it necessary or entertaining to invest.

Dan Bernstein is a co-host of 670 The Score’s Bernstein & McKnight Show in middays. You can follow him on Twitter @dan_bernstein. ​