EDITORIAL: Expanded sports gambling is a sucker bet

There are projections that project that about $5 billion in sports wagers will be made in Virginia each year.

Virginia apparently is for lovers of gambling. About a month ago, late May or early June, a little more than four months after online sports betting became legal in the Old Dominion, we reached $1 billion in wagers. No other state has reached that height so quickly.

Break out those big foam fingers. We’re No. 1.

And we’re just getting started.

People who should know project that about $5 billion in sports wagers will be made in Virginia each year. Since there are about 8.6 million of us, that’s more than $600 each. Among those over 18, it’s more like $800 apiece. So, if you’re one of those deadbeats who hasn’t contributed to the Virginia Lottery’s latest gambit, get moving. Place your bets.
Let’s do a little math. It’s estimated that you win about 95 cents for each dollar you bet. The people taking your bets get the other nickel. If $5 billion a year is wagered, that’s a lot of nickels: $250 million. JLARC projects tax revenues from sports betting at $55 million.
 So, we lose $250 million gambling and we get $55 million back in taxes. That sounds like a sucker bet.

Certainly, Virginia already is knee-deep in wagering. We have the Virginia Lottery. We have horse racing. The problem is size. The lottery took in $2.15 billion last year, less than half of what’s projected from sports betting.

Granted, wagering on sporting events offers better odds than the lottery. You get about 61 cents for every $1 scratch-off ticket. And it’s a free country, although we are not sure that the Founding Fathers had gambling in mind as part of the pursuit of happiness.
The question is: Should the state be making it even easier for us to separate ourselves from our money? Eight hundred dollars a year per adult is a sizable figure. Also, it’s estimated that about 1 percent of the U.S. population has what is called a “gambling disorder,” meaning that when you win, you just keep doubling down until you eventually lose. You can’t stop.
If that figure is correct, there are about 50,000 adult Virginians with a serious gambling problem, and easily accessible sports gambling enables their addiction.
Many of us (mostly men) think they know so much about sports that they can beat the system. Some of them probably can, at least for a while. The numbers, though, indicate that the only big winners in the long run are FanDuel, DraftKings and their kin.
And while the state will get a nice check from the lottery folks, the money’s coming from us, and we’re not getting a very good return on our investment.

This article is a reprint from the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star. To view the original story and comment, click here.

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