If you're a sports fan living in the United States and you feel like sports betting is taking up a bit more real estate than you remember, well, you'd be right. Back in 2018, federal legislation changed such that sports betting can become legal in more states than just Nevada, and because of that, it's taking up a bigger piece of the pie - before that ruling, there was about 1% of the population that lived somewhere where sports betting is legal, and that number is now up to 56% and growing. If you consume any sort of sports media, whether that be ESPN or podcasts, you'll hear more from the likes of DraftKings or FanDuel or Caesar's or BetMGM - all of those players are trying to make themselves the preferred destination for many who have a new access to sports betting.
Sports betting is not my particular vice. I've got nothing against those for whom it is - different strokes for different folks. There are only a few things I'm at odds with (pun intended). One is the amount of emphasis that it sometimes gets in sports broadcasts. This was particularly evident during March Madness, where during a single elimination tournament, a good deal of time was spent in traditional sports media talking about things like the spread and the over/under that don't play a role in who advances - all, ironically in the context of one of the most gambling-friendly tournaments of the year. Announcers once made surreptitious references to "our friends in the desert" or quipped, "that would have made some people happy" when a final shot or late touchdown lead to a backdoor cover. Allusions to sports betting have gone from implicit to explicit, but that issue is relatively minor.
That being said, there is a much more major issue that has been rearing its ugly head: The abuse of athletes - and I'm talking specifically student athletes at the collegiate level - by gamblers. Sports by their very nature are something that people take a little too seriously, even before money gets involved. There have been increasing reports of abusive language up to and including threats on the lives andthe well-being of student athletes, their families, and those around them, and that is entirely out of bounds. Any gambling advertisements you hear will always have the disclaimers and hotlines for if you have a problem with gambling, and frankly, if you are threatening folks' lives, you've got a problem with gambling.
There are conversations taking place within the NCAA, conferences, and states aiming to combat these abuses. To me the solution is pretty simple: Send a threat, lose the bet. If you are the sort that is going to threaten student athletes, or really any sort of athletes, over the money that you've got riding on a game, then you should have your gambling privileges taken away. That could be something enacted at the state level but ideally reciprocal such that it's a privilege that you lose across state lines. To those who stand to profit from gambling, that may seem a little a bit extreme, but if the activity wants to be seen as more than a seedy underbelly as its influence expands, those in the sports betting industry would be wise to get out in front of this sort of abuse. Certainly there are a lot of things that people can say that fall short of an actual threat, but if you are the sort that is threatening athletes because of the outcome of a game that you had money riding on, that should be the end of your access to betting, in addition to any civil or criminal charges that come with your actions. As sports betting spreads, protection for athletes needs to spread along with it.