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    Editorials
    Tuesday, April 16, 2024

    Sports betting scandals aren’t easing up

    It’s March in Connecticut, and so our attention naturally goes to the UConn men’s and women’s basketball teams as they both aim to win yet another national championship.

    Maybe you haven’t noticed, but elsewhere in the sports world there are a number of scandals relating to sports betting.

    The biggest one, undoubtedly, is the case of Shohei Ohtani, the biggest star in baseball, a modern day Babe Ruth who signed a 10-year, $700 million contract this offseason with the Los Angeles Dodgers, one of the sport’s marquee franchises.

    It should be noted that Ohtani’s case involves an illegal bookmaker, as sports betting in California is illegal.

    There’s also the case of NBA player Jontay Porter.

    These are just the latest in a burgeoning number of cases involving athletes and coaches. A partial list from the past few months includes Calvin Ridley, who just signed a four-year, $92 million contract with the Tennessee Titans not long after being suspended for the entire 2022 season for gambling on NFL games, including on his own team.

    It’s not just pro sports either. The Alabama baseball scandal from a year ago, in which its manager was fired for providing inside information on a game to an acquaintance who tried to place substantial bets, flew under the radar, but is nonetheless damning.

    Sports media isn’t immune to it, either, as ESPN anchor Rece Davis’ recent comments on a telecast, telling a fellow on-air personality that her betting advice was a “risk-free investment,” were irresponsible at least.

    NCAA president and former Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker has recently called for a ban on prop bets involving college athletes. Connecticut does not allow prop bets, which are bets that may not affect the game’s outcome (think the first player to score in a certain game or the time of the national anthem), that don’t involve in-state teams.

    Let’s state here that people have been gambling on anything they possibly could for years. It’s a part of our culture and it always has been. And sports haven’t been immune to scandal, dating back to the 1919 Black Sox. It’s a good idea to tax and regulate the industry and bring it into the economy. Both the Mashantuckets and Mohegans have been good neighbors and do what they can to assist problem gamblers, even though they are not obligated to.

    There is nothing wrong with playing casino games and gambling responsibly. It’s a major part of our economy and our social life, especially around here. Many people do it.

    But it used to be that if you wanted to throw a few dollars around, you’d have to actually go to the casino, or maybe you had a weekly poker game at your friend’s house. The problem now is you can place bets from your phone, and when it’s as easy to place a bet as it is to check your email, trouble might not be too far off. We all have a bookie in our pocket if we choose.

    Caution and patience almost always prove to be the better approach when dealing with these sorts of things. Once the toothpaste is squeezed out, it’s hard to get it back in the tube. That is what we’re seeing now.

    The scandals involving the athletes themselves are the bigger issue and reveal the sports world in general may be on the cusp of a larger reckoning.

    If the outcomes of the games we watch come into question, the games themselves are in danger. If fans don’t think the games are on the level, they’ll just watch something else.

    The great thing about sports is that when the ball is tipped, or kicked off, or the puck is dropped, it’s the great unknown. It is not a show. You’re not at the theater. It is unscripted, and that is what makes it unique.

    It wasn’t long ago that boxing was one of the most popular sports in our country. Mike Tyson in his prime was arguably the most famous man on the planet. Now most people don’t even know who the heavyweight champion of the world is. Just the notion that there was something less than honest in the sport or that the fix was in helped to expedite its demise.

    So while we look forward to our teams winning yet another championship, maybe we should all take a breath and just enjoy the games without worrying about the over-under or whether the team will cover the spread.

    The Day editorial board meets with political, business and community leaders to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Timothy Dwyer, Executive Editor Izaskun E. Larraneta, Owen Poole, copy editor, and Lisa McGinley, retired deputy managing editor. The board operates independently from The Day newsroom.

    Comment threads are monitored for 48 hours after publication and then closed.