Sports Betting: Ethics Now

In May 2018, sports betting became legalized in the United States. Previously, gambling on athletes’ performances was prohibited in most states thanks to the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992. A handful of states were exempt from this restriction. Nevada, home to the second biggest gambling city in the world, was one such state. Fast-forward 26 years, the Supreme Court struck down PASPA. Since then, 38 states and Puerto Rico have legalized sports gambling in some fashion, although not all have successfully implemented it.

Sports gambling is viewed by many as a slippery slope that damages professional and amateur athletic competitions. In a recent survey conducted by St. Bonaventure University/Siena College, nearly one-third (29%) of Americans call for the practice to be prohibited once again. However, a much larger percentage of Americans (39-47%) believe that if betting is properly regulated, online sports gambling is not dangerous.  

Still, sports betting is a form of gambling of which 1-2% percent of the U.S. population will suffer from an addiction to at some point in their lives. While that may seem like a small number, it is still important to discuss the topic in a sensitive manner. In the media’s case, their job is partially to present accurate, verifiable information to the masses. If a member of the media elects to discuss sports betting from their opinion, then they remain committed to the principles of journalism of verification. 

Wesley Lowery and “Objectivity, Democracy and the American Mosaic”  

Wesley Lowery is an American journalist who previously held positions at both CBS News and The Washington Post. He wrote “Objectivity, Democracy and the American Mosaic,” which challenged the way news outlets should compose fact-based stories without coming off as neutral for the sake of keeping face. Lowery champions a devotion to rigor, a commitment to fairness, valuing context, practicing transparency and exploring nuance while seeking clarity. 

Journalism of Opinion: USA Today 

In an article published by USA Today on March 21, MLB Reporter Gabe Lacques wrote about a recent gambling scandal perpetuated by Shohei Ohtani’s interpreter, is a “menacing sign.” Ippei Mizuhara, the longtime friend and interpreter for Ohtani, was released from his contract the preceding Wednesday after questions surrounding at least $4.5 million in wire transfers sent from Ohtani’s bank account to a bookmaking operation set off a series of events.  

According to Ohtani, Mizuhara betrayed the Los Angeles Dodgers player, who said, “Ippei has been stealing money from my account and has been telling lies.” He continued, “I never bet on sports or have willfully sent money to the bookmaker.”  

Lacques stated his perspective on the Ohtani-Mizuhara situation from the get-go: “It’s not good.” After briefly explaining the allegations levied against Mizuhara, Lacques affirmed that Ohtani, the individual and the brand, will survive, yet some of the mystical star-power that contributed to Ohtani’s 10-year, $700 million contract may be scathed.  

In a vacuum, Mizuhara’s blunders may seem comical. However, for a sports consumer immersed by the grandeur of the game, Lacques argued, “it might feel like the slippery slope of gambling and sports fandom is giving way.”  

Lacques ended by acknowledging that, to most, $4.5 million — the amount Mizuhara transferred to bookmaker Matt Bowyer — is a lifetime of money. But compared to Ohtani’s $70 million contract, those funds comprise “roughly the equivalent of a person making $100,000 losing $6,000.” 

Journalism of Verification: The New York Times  

On March 23, Iowa Hawkeyes’ shining superstar Caitlin Clark scored 27 points and provided 10 assists to defeat Holy Cross 91-65 to start the NCAA women’s basketball tournament this year. Notably, Clark struggled to make shots early in the game, which resulted in many betters, particularly those who use FanDuel, to lose money. FanDuel projected Clark to score six and half points more than she produced in her March 23 outing.  

Santul Nerkar is a journalist for The New York Times who wrote about the concerns many, including the NCAA itself, have regarding bettors gambling on student athletes. 

According to BetMGM, another high-ranking online sportsbook site, there have been 2.5 times as many bets placed on women’s basketball, compared to the same time in 2023; in fact, Clark has received the second-most bets of any player, regardless of gender, in either iteration of the NCAA March Madness events. According to the American Gaming Association, a combined estimate of $2.7 billion was wagered by Americans on the men’s and women’s NCAA tournaments this year, a total which decimated previous years’ total wagers on the same events.  

NCAA President Charlie Baker said recent gambling incidents, like the one involving Shohei Ohtani’s interpreter prove that “there is more work to be done” to regulate sports betting sites. “The NCAA is drawing the line on sports betting to protect student-athletes and to protect the integrity of the game,” Baker said.  

I think Wesley Lowery would be satisfied with the work Nerkar did in this article, with a few caveats. An issue I have with The New York Times is that they typically do not include links to their sources. Nerkar’s work is not innocent of this practice: where he said BetMGM reported that there have been 2.5 times as many bets placed on women’s basketball than this time last year, Nerkar did not include a link providing clarity to this information. Nerkar provided context for his statements but did not back it up with transparency.  

Still, Nerkar clearly did his research, and his points were accurate. Nerkar rigorously researched his material and gave various parties an outlet, such as Baker.  

Wesley Lowery would consider Santul Nerkar’s recent article objectively fair but would argue that improvements would need to be made so Nerkar’s work is polished.  

Complex Compassion  

It is 10:53 p.m. on a lovely Wednesday evening. As I take another nice, hearty swig of coffee, I continue not to feel any compassion for sports betting.  

How can I feel compassion for gambling enablers? Should I be glad that there are people throwing away their life savings to bet on Rashee Rice scoring another touchdown? Don’t believe me that that could be a real possibility? A millennial wagered over $200 thousand on MLB bets after sports gambling became legal in his state.  

Putting egregious sums of cash on the line of a college athlete should not be the reason why people watch sports; the moments, the things that cause people to react for the love of the game, should be. 

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About Zander Doring 9 Articles
Zander Doring is a first-year adolescent education in social studies major, making this his first year with The Oracle. He has always enjoyed writing, especially video essay critiques for movies and video games. He is a commuter from the Poughkeepsie area.