ESPN radio host Colin Cowherd thinks the sports leagues attempting to sue New Jersey over sports betting legalization are misguided and shouldn’t be opposed to it.
“Legalize it, tax the hell out of it, and New Jersey can make over $200 million per year,” Cowherd said Thursday on his morning show. Later, he added, “There’s already sports gambling in New Jersey. And there’s more in Jersey than in Las Vegas!”
Cowherd devoted his opening rant (10 minutes) to the issue before moving on, and we’ve provided a full transcript of the segment below.
To listen to the audio, click here.
* * *
I understand certain outrages. The gun laws. It’s constitutional, but there’s safety issues. I can get the argument. I understand people getting worked up over presidential elections. But sometimes I don’t understand the outrage to stuff. And so, all the major sports leagues—the NCAA, the NBA, the NFL, Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League (let’s not forget them)—have sued Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey in federal court for signing a law that allows betting on pro and college sports at New Jersey casinos and race tracks.
Now, the leagues claim that New Jersey sports gambling law violates a federal law already in place and enacted years ago. But here’s the outrage part, and by the way, laws change all the time, so just because something is federally enacted doesn’t mean it can’t be rescinded. The NCAA and pro leagues say such gambling would ‘not only harm sports leagues and organizations like the NCAA and NFL, but would be a flagrant violation of the 1992 congressional act to halt the spread of sports gaming.’
Here’s what I don’t get: Why is everybody so anti-sports gambling in these leagues? Does anybody remember the Tim Donaghy scandal? Do you know who tipped off the NBA? VEGAS! They’re not your enemy. They’re your ally. Vegas called the FBI; called the NBA and said, ‘You’ve got a problem.’ Use Vegas as your friend. They’re not your enemy. Vegas tipped off the NBA or Tim Donaghy could have gone years and convince other refs to do the same.
Sports gambling is here and we like it and it’s not ruining society. ‘But Colin, people get addicted!’ People get addicted to butter. Don’t blame the beer because you’re an alcoholic and don’t blame the bagel because you’re overweight. People have to be accountable for their own addictions.
Is it a moral issue? Well, more wars have been caused by religion than sports gambling. Religious zealotry scares me. Who has the over on the Bengals/Ravens does not. Again, I get outrage on a lot of issues. Why does anybody get worked up over sports gambling? Now, I lived in Vegas for years. There are sleazy people in Vegas. There’s sleazy people anywhere. I found the people I knew at the time in sports gambling incredibly trustable. It’s a highly regulated business.
You know what’s not regulated? Strip clubs. If you’re anti-Strip Club, you may have a point. The alcohol business, every state’s different. This state’s the Wild Wild West. This state you can’t drink on Sundays. But the idea that people get worked up because I’ve got the Rams -6, I’ve never understood. And here’s a little secret: Sports gambling is already everywhere. Did you know that? Everybody thinks VEGAS. Oh, the din of iniquity! Do you know that only four percent of NFL bets take place in Las Vegas? I’ve got news for you: There’s already sports gambling in New Jersey. (laughs). And there’s more in Jersey than in Las Vegas.
I don’t know the industry well enough to make big predictions, but I wouldn’t be shocked—and I don’t think any of you would—if sports gambling was legal on the Internet in the next 10 years. I mean, what person have you ever met in New Jersey that says, ‘Bob! It’s not legal for me to bet on the Giants! Guess I’m out of luck!’ If you want to bet? Go bet. This is like the government trying to stop television viewing. People are doing it, they’ll always do it, it’s part of our fabric. Even if it’s illegal—and there’s a 12 percent underground economy in America anyway—you’ll never stop it. People are going to drink, they’re going to lust, they’re going to gamble, they’re going to eat and they’re going to watch TV.
You can’t stop it.
So, legalize it, tax the hell out of it, and Jersey can make over $200 million per year. Really? How much are they making on Strip joints? Not that much. It is amazing … People treat sports gambling like the Ebola virus. Here it comes! We’ll bleed from our eyes! Run for the hills! I bet football games. All right. How corrupt. Is it a moral issue? I mean, when the government had prohibition, do you think people didn’t drink? It was more of an underground premium than ever. I find the stigma just forces more illegal activity. If you legalize it, the bad guys go away. They lost their market. It’s like going to your son and saying, ‘Do not listen to GWAR! I do not like that music. That music is evil. You know what my son’s going to do? He’s going to go to his room and crank GWAR because I told him he can’t. If I say, ‘You know what? GWAR is awesome! Crank it, buddy!’ Suddenly it’s not cool.
Take away the stigma; legalize it everywhere. ‘But Colin, you’ll have game fixing!’ They’ve had more game fixing in Europe. We had an Arizona State basketball game several years ago fixed. Sports gambling wasn’t legal in Arizona, and yet it was legal in Vegas and UNLV games aren’t fixed. Gambling is sanitized when it’s legal. There aren’t any thumb-breakers. There aren’t any loan sharks. We’re going to gamble as a society. Get over it. Legalize it and tax the hell out of it. You can’t stop it. Illegal card room. Legal card room. How about we make ‘em legal and get some tax revenue out of it? I mean, listen, what vice hasn’t the government gotten a piece of? I think their biggest issue is …
Here’s the great thing about sports gambling for you and I, and we love it, and we’re doing it right now and it’s not ruining society. I mean, look around society folks. Of all of our problems, how many of ‘em are tied to this? You can bet a Laker game tonight! Are any of our society ills based on that Laker game four months from now? This is not legalizing marijuana. There are concerns that it’s a Gateway drug; there are concerns what it does. We all went to high school with Corky. He was forgetful and sort of apathetic. I’ve just never understood it. It’s just so bizarre. I lived in Vegas. I knew these guys that bet for a living. Totally sanitized. All they are is analysts. You’re a hedge fund analyst. You’re a financial analyst. You’re an insurance analyst. There are sports gaming analysts. Hit 58 percent. Manage your money. There’s your living.
God, people get so worked up over it.