Just imagine it, the Boston Red Sox have made it to the World Series again but the online sportsbooks make them only a 2-1 favorite. Those are great odds for a team that you believe in. So you place a bet for $500. to win $750., it’s easy money. Meanwhile, a special investigative wing of the Governor’s office receives a customer list from the sportsbook that has your name on it. Your five hundred dollar bet is on the list and thus you have broken the law. Within days you receive a subpoena to stand before a judge.
Congratulations, you are now a criminal. Say goodbye to your wife and kids as they cart you off to jail.
If this scenario sounds outlandish then you might want to read up on the legislation proposed by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. As a part of a bill intended to introduce $200 million dollars worth of licensing for future Indian gaming casinos, the Governor has attached a provision that would make it illegal for Massachusetts residents to place a bet online. The price for gambling would be two years in prison or a $25,000. dollar fine.
If you have come to the conclusion that Patrick has lost his mind then you are not alone. A state full of sports fanatics has been stunned by this unusual and pointed attack.
So why is he proposing such a draconian measure? Has there been a sudden pandemic of destructive gamblers that we should know about? Peter Collins says no, he’s the director of the Center for the study of Gambling at the University of Salford. His most recent study released in September 2007 stated, “The number of problem gamblers has not increased since 1999 even though there has been a substantial increase in the availability of gaming opportunities and a substantial increase in gambling.” Professor Collins study suggests that only 1% of adults develop genuine gambling addiction and only 4% suffer financial harm from their actions.
So is Governor Patrick concerned with the financial safety of those four percent? If so he has his facts backwards. Online gambling is seen as merely a pastime while the more serious gamblers visit casinos. It is the casino gamblers who lose their shirts on high stakes games. They primarily go there to play cards, slots, blackjack and the like where as online gamblers tend more often to put money down on their favorite sports teams. Thus we are back to the dedicated but targeted Red Sox fan.
Since the proposed law only applies to residents of the state of Massachusetts and since online gambling bets are mostly placed on the performance of sports teams then we may very well see a vast jailing of Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics, and Bruins fans in the coming years.
Perhaps the Governor didn’t think this through. Jailing these thousands of harmless recreational gamblers would break up families, increase welfare rolls and ultimate disrupt the economy of the Bay State. If that’s not enough to get his attention then he had better at least consider the fact that he cannot win re-election in 2010 without the legions of sports junkies that live in Massachusetts. They are constituents, they do vote and if you’ve never seen riled up Red Sox fans then you might want to Google the footage of the Ford Ranger pick-up truck that was flipped on its roof after the Sox won this year’s World Series. There are some freedoms and some fans that you just don’t mess with.