© 2018 by The Behrend Beacon.

  • Black Twitter Icon

Sports and the gambling machine


Kendrick Imler, Contributing Writer

With football season in full swing, sports wagering is on the rise online and in casinos.


While the availability and legality has morphed over recent years in the U.S., it is not surprising that gambling is so popular; it is an act that has been prevalent over the course of human history.

For thousands of years, gambling has served as a quick way to multiply resources and favors. From the first-recorded dice games in Mesopotamia in the 3000s B.C. to the first gambling houses—the ancestors to modern-day casinos—in Italy in the 17th-century, gambling has served an instrumental role in shaping the society we live in. Although gambling has been associated with the underside or sinful aspects of society with regularity over-time, it has landed in a place in today’s society where it is not only legal, but also embraced.


Sports gambling is one form of gambling that people particularly love, and has created the most recent splash as lawmakers have allowed the constraints of these wagers free from the grasp of Las Vegas. While casino gambling became legal in Pennsylvania in 2007, Pennsylvania law reshaped the gaming industry in 2017 by lifting the ban on sports gambling and online wagering. Between Presque Isle Downs in Erie, which just opened its BetAmerica sportsbook in July of this year and online platforms such as Betfair and FanDuel, the gaming industry is weaving its way even-more into the fabric of American society.


For many young people, the mixture of online wagering and sports betting offers an attractive opportunity to participate in gambling that was limited by slot machines, table games, horses, and most importantly, trips to a local casino. Specifically, regarding sports, platforms like BetAmerica offer a bevy of wagers such as prop bets, straight bets, live bets and future bets that allow players to have action on single games, multiple games, in-game occurrences, and future scenarios that have not occurred yet. Combined with America’s obsession with football, the local and online availability of sports gambling has the ability to affect and shape the lives of people from all demographics. Possibly more discouraging is the idea that these gambling options are most attractive to young, college-aged students who are in the process of shaping their adult lives.


And with every day that passes, sports gambling seems to become more-and-more ingrained into our society. The advertisements are everywhere. From social media platforms and websites to traditional print, radio and television spots, it is nearly impossible to go a day without seeing or hearing a message that is geared towards betting on sports. And the message is always the same: there is plenty of money to be had when it comes to wagering on sports.


Beyond ads paid for by gambling platforms and establishments, social media accounts providing expert picks from sports handicappers provide more confidence for those who are uncertain about how to bet or which team to pick. Even those looking for sporting news with no desire to gamble can have trouble avoiding. As they peruse through ESPN’s website or turn to the station on the television, sans-gambling reports on football games still often provide point spreads for the world to see. Midnight SportsCenter anchor Scott Van Pelt has had a gambling aspect associated with his show since 2015, where the host and regular guest “Stanford” Steve Coughlin pick winners that are adjusted to spreads and lament over bad beats, where gamblers lost their wagers in games that seemed to be guaranteed victories. 


As sports gambling becomes more normalized, it is important to remember that it has its risks. While enjoyed responsibly it can be an experience that enhances an otherwise mundane sporting event, things can easily spin out-of-control. For all of the ads and point spreads and promises of winning money with certain betting strategies, gambling is, and always has been, a risky proposition. 


There is an old saying that the house always wins. In a society geared towards focusing on winners, the stories of the losers are often swept under-the-rug. But to gamble responsibly and truly understand the dangers behind the glamour of online sports wagering, one must look at all that can be lost.