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Paul Klee: Supreme Court's legalized sports gambling decision at the intersection of "sin and revenue"

By: Paul Klee
May 14, 2018 Updated: May 14, 2018 at 10:54 pm
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A man watches a baseball game in the sports book at the South Point hotel-casino, Monday, May 14, 2018, in Las Vegas. The Supreme Court on Monday gave its go-ahead for states to allow gambling on sports across the nation, striking down a federal law that barred betting on football, basketball, baseball and other sports in most states. (AP Photo/John Locher)

DENVER — The NFL just cured its TV ratings illness, Las Vegas just inched closer to hosting a Super Bowl, and it just became tougher than any other time in American history to rig a sporting event.

Pretty nice li'l Monday, don't you think?

The U.S. Supreme Court empowered individual states to legalize sports gambling — by a vote of 6-3, covering the Over — and the big winners are the usual suspects: the sports leagues themselves (whether they come clean and admit it or not), team owners and the entrepreneurs who are first to open sportsbooks when and where sports gambling is eventually legalized. All stand to benefit from a landmark decision that forever will alter sports here as we know it. And the big losers?

You, if you gamble on games. I'm reminded of a night, after a strangely unkempt finish to a Broncos game at Mile High, Gazette columnist Woody Paige told me: “That’s why only a knucklehead bets on sports.”

Thankfully, I know a ton of knuckleheads.

I’m in favor of legalized sports gambling. It’s your money; spend it how you want. And if you bet on sports, you’re probably going to lose. I could toss out a bunch of data to prove that’s true — the Vegas books haven’t suffered a losing month in almost five years, according to an ESPN report — but there was bound to be a time when my degenerate friends would come in handy, other than wedding receptions with open bars.

This is that time.

“(I’m) waaaaaay down,” said Poo, who spoke on the condition I use his nickname. “Don’t even watch sports anymore.”

“Easily down. I don’t even bet on sports anymore because I was losing so bad. It wasn’t fun anymore,” Wildman said. “But I’ll get back at it for football and college basketball. Watching a game is boring with no action.”

“Definitely not even,” E-Hogs said. “Had one monster March Madness three years ago and went way up. Was a slow bleed back to even and below even. Deleted my account. Agree with the Wildman. It became no fun. Wins weren’t that fun and losses keep you awake. Ugh, the chase.”

These are good men, husbands and fathers. They are productive members of society. They are (or were, in Poo’s case) obsessive sports fans with a deep understanding of the games and teams on which they wager. 

And they usually lose.

“Disagree,” Doofy said. “Casinos are basically big ATMs holding my money for me until I return for that one big night.”

What about that one time in Rhode Island when your wife....

“I’m way up and going to be wayer up after this Celtics series,” Doofy added.

Yes, some folks win. Rare, but it happens. My friend Bone is 358-357-16 in the past year. Money Mocco is 815-790-33 over his past 1,638 wagers. (No idea how he settled on that number.) Winning's possible, and gambling can spice up even the shruggiest Browns-Raiders Thursday night game. 

Which is why the legalization of gambling is destined to change sports here forever. There's only one thing Americans like more than fun, and that's talking about themselves. Sports gambling allows both.

There are few topics I write that draw a louder reaction from readers than Broncos predictions, with one caveat: I only hear from readers when the prediction is wrong. One dedicated soul with a Seattle area code called roughly 50 times after my Super Bowl XLVIII prediction — Broncos over Seahawks — was dead wrong. And no one called after my Super Bowl 50 pick — Broncos over Panthers, a huge upset — was right on. Made money is quiet money, I guess. My last three seasons of Broncos predictions, in print, are 16-3 (against the spread), 10-6, 10-6. Not bad on a team that enforces a quarterback change on days ending in “Y.”

But we're all friends here, so let’s be real. When legalized sports gambling hits Colorado — and it will, because anything that can be legalized is going to be legalized in Colorado — we’re mostly/probably/surely going to lose.

Our sudden status as Grin City, an adult playland where the only bad vice is a vice you don’t have yet, makes our state a natural destination for legalized sports gambling. Would it really be a surprise to see a sportsbook in time for Tuesday happy hour at Casa Bonita (“We cover the whole enchilada!”), Breckenridge (“Win, place and snow”) and Elitch Gardens (“Let it ride”)? Or Garden of the Gambling Gods?

"I would expect an issue like that to be contentious and hard-fought on all sides, to the point it wouldn't happen quickly," state Sen. Bob Gardner told me on Monday. "It's sin and revenue. Any time an issue has to do with sin and revenue, there will be a lot of people lobbying on all sides."

Gardner suspects the soonest that legalized sports gambling would be taken up in Colorado is next January, when the state Legislature is back in session. 

I'm no doctor, but legal weed plus legal gambling seems like a combustible combination. But I saw the other night the Golden Knights somehow are still alive in the NHL playoffs, so Las Vegas hasn’t burned down. Yet. 

With legalized gambling, more people will have a vested interest in sports, which means more people will watch sports, particularly the NFL. This also removes another layer from the sports stigma attached to Las Vegas, a city that makes too much sense for Final Fours and the like. And potential point shaving now will be watched with Big Brother's eye.

Plus, we're one step closer to self-destruction. Everybody wins! 

Except your wallet. And Poo.

Twitter: @bypaulklee

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