On Sunday, CBS’s ‘60 Minutes’ released their piece on sports betting, partially focusing on West Virginia.
This should be of particular interest to our county, considering the Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races was the first casino in the state to open a sports book – a result of the Supreme Court overturning a federal law that would in turn allow states to choose whether or not they would legalize sports betting.
Before the law was overturned, there was a gray area with sports betting. Deeply rooted in online daily fantasy apps like FanDuel and Draft Kings, it was easy to get around the rule.
The loopholes came to light when comedian John Oliver tackled the topic on his Sunday night HBO show ‘Last Week Tonight’ in a 2015 episode.
Oliver pointed out, in his non-traditional style of comedy, that daily fantasy sports are “the most addicting thing you can do on your phone, other than, perhaps, cocaine.”
Oliver really hits on the prevalence of daily fantasy advertising, but also hits on the fact that a laundry list of professional associations, leagues and media corporations own stakes in daily fantasy companies.
That does go to say something, considering not long ago (relatively speaking) teams were against the idea of sports gambling. Matt King, FanDuel’s then-CFO was quoted on Oliver’s show as part of a PBS ‘Frontline’ story as saying that daily fantasy isn’t gambling but rather an “entertainment product,” an undersell that most daily fantasy companies would use to get away from the dirty g-word.
The comedian goes on to dismantle daily fantasy in his explanatory piece, first starting out that these sites found prominence with the fact that fantasy sports was left out of Congress’ crackdown on online gambling because it was basically a game between friends. After a deeper dive (which I recommend you go watch the full 20 minutes) Oliver concludes his piece on the note that “daily fantasy is gambling, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if we’re going to de-facto legalize sports gambling across the U.S. we should do it on purpose because gambling enterprises – where they are legal – are regulated to protect people.”
That point made four years ago certainly includes college athletes in today’s gambling world, and here’s why.
WHY 60 MINUTES GOT IT WRONG WITH THEIR INTERVIEWEES
In Sunday’s airing of 60 minutes, a familiar West Virginian pleaded his case about the sports book system in our state.
Seemingly pulling anger out of nowhere, Marshall Athletic Director Mike Hamrick brought up the opinion that people will do anything to “make a buck at the expense of an 18 or 19 year old kid.”
Before we get too deep into it, it should be noted that the 60 Minutes’ piece’s timing is directed towards 2019 being the 100-year anniversary of the “Chicago Black Sox” scandal – also known as the “Big Fix.” This is truly where sports gambling found national prominence – and national demonization. For those who may not know, the main premise of the scandal is this:
In 1919 the White Sox, a World Series contender, were embroiled in sports gambling and working with gangsters to throw the series. Just a few weeks before the World Series, it’s said that the Sox’ first basemen C. Arnold Gandil and big gambler Joseph Sullivan met to discuss the Sox throwing the game for a $100,000 buyout. Gandil would bring pitchers Eddie Cicotte, Claude Williams and others (Charles Risberg and Oscar Felsh) into the scheme, while Sullivan began raising the buyout cash with his buddies. It’s believed that New York mob boss Arnold “The Brain” Rothstein was involved, as Rothstein was a big fixer and gambler in his time, though this was never proven.
What would follow in the World Series was something out of the South Park episode where the boys don’t want to play little league anymore.
The Sox threw the first game to the Reds 9-1 with a series of disastrous blunders, eventually ending Game 8 with a 10-5 loss. Through a series of court trials, Gandil and Co. where indicted on multiple counts of conspiracy, but were never officially convicted of the charges after the paperwork mysteriously disappeared. The group would get their comeuppance in another form – permanently being banned from organized baseball.
Back to the main part of the 60 Minutes feature:
They begin with an interview with Florida State law professor Ryan Rodenberg who claims that, looking back to 1919, “You don’t see that type of point shaving at the professional level, but the one area that you do see it – and there are countless examples – is in college sports, particularly college basketball.”
That’s hardly a factor. There hasn’t been any recent examples since the 2007 University of Toledo outing of Adam Cuomo, a running back from ’99-’03 who recruited players to do dirty things, the biggest being a $500 bribe to another running back to fumble in the 2005 bowl game. So why now would these scandals become prominent?
This interview is followed by Athletic Director Hamrick. He backs up his statement about people making a buck with this statement:
“It’s very tempting to [corrupt a game].”
Bull. These kids are given the opportunity, most with free tuition, room and board, meal plans and more to perform at the college level like they’ve always dreamed of. Especially nowadays with the coaches micromanaging and watching every move a player makes, plus lack of privacy altogether, nothing like this will probably happen again.
I’m under the unpopular opinion that college athletes should not be paid for playing. Yes, there are better ways to treat them and their dedication to earning their education, but they get so many incentives to attend college to play. Why should they be paid on top of a full-ride scholarship? There’s another time for that column, but it isn’t now.
“It’s not like gambling on sports has never existed before,” Jon Wertheim replies to Hamrick’s statement. “Why are you so concerned this year as opposed to last year?”
“It’s right in front of my face, John! It’s legal!” Hamrick said.
Hamrick was the old AD at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas before taking the job at Marshall. He claims that at one game, a player failed to make a wide open layup destroying the chance of UNLV covering the point spread thus making fans mad. Hamrick fully believes that players can be compromised, and I’m sure some can be. Overall, though, I don’t buy it.
It’s funny to me that 60 Minutes and others that are aligning themselves with the feature piece are denying that the NCAA is in itself a corrupt organization. We’re in the middle of the drama of coaches and players taking money from Adidas, yet let’s focus on something that hasn’t happened for years – and really, in college basketball since 1995.
To be honest, I have no problems with sports gambling. I take part in it at times. I think gambling can be a slippery slope and lead to addiction in some people, but overall it isn’t that big of an issue to me. I play a lot of daily fantasy sports.
Let’s be honest, the introduction of legal sports gambling is not going to effect games. Fans and administration will make any excuse they can to justify why their team lost a game or didn’t cover the spread, but it won’t be because they’re accepting bribes.
Want to bet on it?