Let’s hope sports betting bill stays dead

(Photo illustration by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The state of North Carolina needs a lot of things — access to healthcare for hundreds of thousands of people trapped in the coverage gap, new laws to prevent the proliferation of military-grade killing machines, adequate funding so that its public schools comply with the state constitution —  but legalized sports gambling is not on the list.

That’s why last night’s preliminary defeat of such a proposal in the state House was more than welcome. As Wake County State Rep. Abe Jones put it succinctly and accurately in regard to such a proposal in the House floor debate as reported by WRAL.com:

“This is bad. Pure, simple, straight-up wrong. You can’t fix what’s wrong because you can’t amend it away.”

A powerful fact sheet prepared a few years back by the national advocacy group Stop Predatory Gambling lists numerous reasons why commercialized sports betting is a huge and deeply problematic scam. But topping the list are these:

  • It fundamentally changes the way people watch and consume sports (and not for the better).
  • It will relieve Americans of billions upon billions of dollars of wealth on an almost always illusory notion that they can win big.
  • It is designed to target kids and turn them into lifetime gamblers.

As the fact sheet notes:

Public officials and opinion leaders of all political stripes who profess a desire to improve opportunity and alleviate poverty often lament how few levers they have to pull.

Saving is the road to wealth creation yet around 50% of the U.S. population has zero or negative net wealth. More than 60% of citizens don’t have enough savings to cover a $1000 emergency expense. This is a critical issue because asset-building is the direct opposite of commercialized gambling.

Americans were expected to lose $118 billion of their personal wealth to government-sanctioned gambling in 2018. Over the next eight years, the American people are on a collision course to lose more than $1 trillion of their personal wealth to government-sanctioned gambling. If approved, commercialized sports betting will make these financial losses even worse.

To improve opportunity and increase mobility out of poverty, state officials must stop turning millions of people who are small earners, who could be small savers, into habitual bettors.

Last night’s vote was razor-thin, and perhaps not the last word on the issue. If state leaders, however, retain any interest in protecting the people of the state from predatory corporations that differ little from loan sharks and payday lending scammers, they’ll see that the legislation stays dead.

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