Sporta gaMBLING

Indiana and Tennessee have moved ahead of Kentucky in legalizing sports gambling. 

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — When Kentucky decided it was time to get serious about football in the Southeastern Conference, the UK administration vigorously invested.

Invested in people. Invested in facilities. Invested in promotion. Invested in anything that worked for the competition.

When Louisville decided it needed to secure its position in the college sports landscape, the administration vigorously invested.

Invested in making certain the program had a place in the Big East Conference, which U of L eventually parlayed into a better spot in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Competition never stops or even sleeps. Kentucky is competing with Indiana and Tennessee for the considerable revenue attached to sports gaming, which became a national topic after a victory by the New Jersey Supreme Court last year.

This week Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb signed a bill that legalized sports books and on-line sports betting.

If everything goes as planned, when Notre Dame visits Cardinal Stadium Sept. 2, Hoosiers will be able to tap their phones several times and take Louisville and the 13 points (relax, I’m only guessing at the number Las Vegas will establish) against the Fighting Irish.

Ditto for fans in Tennessee, where sports betting will be legal July 1.

In Kentucky, we’re still fussing about something as inevitable as potholes on River Road. Legalized sports betting remains in the talking, talking, talking stage.

News flash: Sports gaming has been legalized. It’s the law of the land.

It happened last year. A story at ESPN.com, lists New York, Arkansas, Montana and Washington, D.C. in the gambling on-deck circle, also ahead of Kentucky. Nevada, New Jersey, Delaware, West Virginia and others are already in the game.

Sports gambling also has been illegal and winked at by authorities for years. Computers and the Internet brought gambling into everybody’s family room. Raise your hand if you’ve ever seen a parlay card. Indiana became the 10th state to stop winking and start collecting revenue.

Kentucky dollars will flow and be spent on schools, roads and retirement funds in Indianapolis and Nashville.

Time for several important reminders and items. Sports gaming has a harsh downside. Some gamblers burn the money they need to support their families to take the points in the Tuesday night Wake Forest-Georgia Tech game. Their addictive behavior has destructive consequences.

Stories of punishing gambling losses are not scare tactics. They’re real. They’re legitimate. They’re sad.

I had a friend who lost more than $20,000 on scratch-off cards and lottery tickets. His family was not happy. You know the drill. You hear about all their winners. You never see the torn up losing cards.

Gambling on sporting events has greater risks. I’ve seen it become a macho competition of one ups-manship.

You hit the Super Bowl point spread and over-under?

Big deal. I hit eight games on one NCAA Tournament weekend.

Oh, yeah, I picked the Derby, Preakness and Belmont winners. The house is the guaranteed winner.

(For the record, I’m about a once-a-year gambler. I have not bet on the Kentucky Derby in three years and have not wagered on anything stronger than an office pool in that period. I do, however, follow the point spreads, which truly are, for entertainment purposes only, for me.)

There’s more. Gambling on games is becoming more convenient for athletes competing in games. That’s a potentially destructive marriage of young, immature minds and potent, alluring technology.

Legalized sports gambling in a college dorm puts it directly in the faces of college athletes. There will always been somebody sniffing for more inside information, determined to get that edge.

The societal costs of gambling, including its innocent victims with family units, cannot be ignored.

But the victims are already at risk in Kentucky. Race track betting. Lottery tickets. Scratch-off cards. The risks and the downside already exist.

That risk will grow because in an increasing number of states, sports gambling is as legal as buying a shot of bourbon, a cigarette or a lottery ticket.

Indiana and Tennessee are primed to serve that culture with several taps of the phone. Kentucky is still talking, talking, talking.

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