California Throws Hat Into Sports Betting Ring

California Throws Hat Into Sports Betting RingCalifornia and “freedom” are hardly synonymous these days, but even that restrictive and regressive place – where every little bit of self-determination and voluntary interaction is heavily regulated or banned outright – seems to see the light when it comes to abolishing the ill-considered Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA, 1992) and reinstating a comprehensive system of statewide legal sports betting.

To that end, California assemblyman Adam Gray has presented a new amendment to the state constitution that would legalize the enormous sports gambling industry out on the west coast. Indeed, it may well be the sheer size of said industry – estimated as worth $550 billion per year nationally – that comprises most of the motivation behind Gray’s proposal, but even as California takes federal handouts hand over fist and hemorrhages money as it settles back into the red, the outcome for sports bettors is functionally the same: they would finally be able to openly participate in their hobby without fear of punitive governmental interference.

Still, no new law is worth its salt if it doesn’t try to elevate the state over the status quo. In propping up legalized sports betting in California, Gray lets his feelings about the vendors behind that status quo be known. He characterizes current Internet sports gambling as “illegal and unregulated” even though it is neither of those things, and he emphasizes the importance of installing a “safe and responsible option which includes safeguards against compulsive and underage gambling, money laundering, and fraud.” (That bit about safeguards against compulsion is particularly sinister, as it basically seeks to legislate behavior – which is historically impossible – while it opens the door for authorities to charge the gambling industry a perpetual fee to maintain its supposed moral “good standing.”) But the most telling blurb from the lawmaker was that California needs to act now in order to “ensure the safety of consumers” from the “illegal and often unscrupulous websites in foreign countries.”

Make no mistake: Gray’s nonsense is nothing more than a sales pitch. But if you’ve been around online sports betting for any length of time, you know it’s also short-sighted and ignorant. After all, it is these very “unscrupulous” companies – who, by the way, have excellent track records of doing honest business with their customers and paying out all their bets in a timely and straightforward manner, provided you choose one of the big, veteran players – that will be the first ones out of the gate with US (which California is still a part of, whether it likes it or not) offices the second that PASPA is officially overruled or legislated away. (Remember, none of these state initiatives to legalize sports betting mean anything at all unless and until PASPA is eliminated.)

Even though California seems to rarely have the average citizen’s actual wellbeing or safety in mind, it’s still ultimately a good idea to legalize sports betting throughout the area. With its 40 million inhabitants, California is the most populous of the sports betting states in America by about 12 million folks, and – if history is any indication – a substantial percentage of them are eagerly awaiting the “all clear” to place their bets.

In the meantime, what are the odds that California actually puts this legal sports betting initiative on their ballots come next election?

I’m giving 5-1.