In 1919, the Chicago White Sox lost the World Series after players took bribes and then threw games. Eight players were banned from baseball for life.
A century later, it’s impossible to not associate sports and gambling.
Earlier this year, the Washington Nationals opened the first retail sports book connected to a Major League Baseball stadium.
That’s allowed now because of a 2018 decision from the Supreme Court.
The bench overturned a law that effectively banned all states except Nevada from allowing sports gambling.
After the court’s decision, other states started to legalize sports gambling.
New Jersey was among the first to make the move.
Governor Phil Murphy placed the first legal bet there.
In the first full year that sports gambling was legal in New Jersey, more than $4.5 billion were wagered. Last year, bettors there wagered almost 11 billion dollars. That’s the most of any state.
Currently, sports gambling is legal and operational in 30 states plus Washington D.C., and other states have legislation in the works to legalize it.
Parlay its new legality with incredible convenience, and you have a winning ticket.
"Technology has enabled sports betting to be this 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week opportunity, where previously you had to go to a state where this was legal," said Brett Abarbanel, director of research at the International Gaming Institute. "And now we have it even more broadly. It's at the end of your hand. How many people leave their smartphones far away from their bodies?"
That convenience has created a two-edged sword.
On the one hand, states have combined to bring in more than $1 billion in tax revenue from sports betting since 2018.
A majority of that is from mobile and online betting.
Most states drop that money in their general fund. But some places allocate it elsewhere.
In Colorado, a portion of tax revenue goes to the state's water plan.
Illinois uses it to improve state infrastructure like roads, bridges, and schools.
And in Washington D.C., Indiana, Michigan, and some other states, a portion of tax revenue goes toward programs that help people with gambling problems.
But that might not be enough to help those who need it.
“It's been established in a couple of research papers now that in-play betting is associated with problematic gambling behavior," says Abarbanel. "There's always more research that can be done that it's a cause of problematic gambling. But it's certainly something where I mean, if I'm getting alerts on my phone all the time that there's a new wager, it can be a potential trigger for somebody who's in recovery.”
It was a problem the Supreme Court predicted when it made its 2018 decision.
In his decision, Justice Samuel Alito noted that opponents say "legalizing sports gambling will hook the young on gambling (and) encourage people of modest means to squander their savings and earnings."
Online betting apps emphasize the opportunity to win big. But they tend to bury resources for those struggling in the fine print.
According to the National Center for Responsible Gaming one in one hundred American adults has a serious gambling problem.
Rates of problematic gambling are higher among younger Americans.
But the numbers that speak louder right now are the ones with a dollar sign in front.
And as money continues to come in it’s a safe bet sports gambling will keep expanding.