Sweetness And LightSweetness And Light The Score On Sports With Frank Deford

My Money's On Betting In Delaware

Betting on sports i i

Frank Deford thinks the U.S. needs to stop its two-faced approach to sports betting. iStockphoto.com hide caption

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Betting on sports

Frank Deford thinks the U.S. needs to stop its two-faced approach to sports betting.

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To me, the United States gets more and more conflicted. People argue whether we're a center-right or center-left country. But suppose there's no center any more, so we're just center-less?

Nothing illustrates this, our national ambiguity, more than the issue of sports gambling. Granted, in a time of economic distress and war and declining ratings for American Idol, betting on sports is not a pressing concern upon the republic.

But it is illustrative of our contradictions and, well, our hypocrisy. In this two-fisted land, where "put your money where your mouth is" and "wanna bet" and "put up or shut up" are among the first expressions that real boys learn, we actually remain backward and tormented about gambling.

The U.S. is, for example, the veritable capital of cyberspace, but we've been found to be in violation of World Trade Organization obligations because we, almost alone among civilized nations, prohibit Internet gambling.

Or consider the great little state of Delaware, where new legislation would allow sports books to operate — a distinction now owned only by Nevada. The nerve of Delaware — it's caused an absolute conniption fit among sports organizations, especially the National Football League.

My gracious. Everybody knows the NFL is the most popular game to bet, with billions wagered illegally on point spreads. Why would you be against letting folks bet legally rather than with the mob — especially in these parlous times? Delaware can make more than $50 million a year in taxes from sports books.

Moreover, it's estimated that the U.S. will give up $52 billion in the next decade if we continue to prohibit betting on the Internet. In sensible recognition thereof, Congressman Barney Frank, one of the few grown-ups in Washington, will soon hold hearings on his bill to bring the United States up to modern speed by legalizing Internet gambling.

But then, it's no wonder the WTO still thinks we're goofy. Why should betting on four-legged creatures be allowed, but wagering on our fellow upright athletes be a sin? Why do we condone lotteries and slot machines, which are, essentially, devices regulated to tax poorer citizens, while denying sports betting, which requires at least a smidgen of intelligence?

And talk about two-faced. At the same time that the NFL is trying to influence the Delaware Supreme Court to limit sports wagering, the league has urged its franchises to make money licensing their team logos to state lotteries.

Of course, honesty compels me to acknowledge that there is a personal reason why I want bettors to have a chance to wager in Delaware: I met my wife there. Trust me. It's a place where you can make a good bet.

Commentator Frank Deford weighs in from member station WSHU in Fairfield, Conn.

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Sweetness And LightSweetness And Light The Score On Sports With Frank Deford