Sports gambling has now become legal in states outside of Nevada, thanks to a Supreme Court ruling earlier this year.
That’s great if you like to bet on sports. But if you’re a baseball fan, you can’t be faulted for having a moment of concern. Or two. After all, gambling has had a tough impact on the game in the past.
Legal Sports Gambling
New Jersey recently joined Delaware in providing a place for gamblers to bet on single games.
At this point, the only way to place a sports bet is in person in Delaware and New Jersey. Online gambling is expected to start, maybe sooner than later. Other states are also expected to follow in the footsteps of Delaware and New Jersey.
All this springs from a lawsuit from the state of New Jersey that challenged the former law that restricted sports betting to just four states: Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon. Nevada was the only place you could place a bet on a single game.
Betting on college sports events held in New Jersey is not allowed. Each bet is taxed 8.5 percent.
Reaction From Baseball Fans
Older baseball fans can be excused for feeling a bit wary of this new situation. After all, gambling has had a terrible impact on the sport.
On the other hand, it also could possibly change people’s minds about past behavior. Although, when you look closely at past baseball scandals, betting on games merely opened the door to something much worse: fixing games.
Here are some of the scandals from baseball’s past.
The only umpire ever banned for baseball, Higham was caught taking payments in 1882 from gamblers to tip games either in favor of or against the Detroit Wolverines of the National League. The scandal was uncovered when Wolverines owner William Thompson became suspicious and hired a detective to have Higham followed. Among other damning evidence, the detective found that if Higham planned to help the Wolverines with his calls, he would send a telegram saying, “Buy all the lumber you can.” If no telegram arrived, it meant to bet on the opponent.
In 1877, the first-place Louisville Grays mysteriously collapsed, allowing the Boston Red Caps to win the National League title. The losing streak was marked by bad pitching and fielding. In a foreshadowing of the Black Sox scandal, players Bill Craver, Jimmy Devlin, George Hall and Al Nichols were found to have accepted money from gamblers to lose games. All four were banned from baseball. Poor and desperate, Devlin later begged to get back into the game, but was never allowed – showing another, human consequence gambling had on baseball. Devlin eventually found work as a police officer in Philadelphia but died of tuberculosis in 1883.
Black Sox Scandal
The most notorious of all baseball sports gambling scandals. Eight players on the Chicago White Sox joined together to throw the 1919 World Series for payments from gamblers. The scandal resulted in the creation of the Commissioner of Baseball position, first held by Kenesaw Mountain Landis. Landis banned all eight players for life. Each player reportedly was offered $5,000 from sports bookie Joseph Sullivan.
The banned players included Shoeless Joe Jackson – even though he committed no errors and hit .375 in the series. Jackson proclaimed his innocence until his death in 1951. At the time of his death, he ran a liquor store.
If fierce debate still surrounds Jackson not being in the Hall of Fame, it’s volcanic with Rose, baseball’s all-time hits leader. A 1989 investigation found Rose had gambled on baseball while a player-manager for the Reds. In 2004, Rose admitted he bet on baseball games and the Reds, although he said he never bet against the Reds. He’s been banned from inclusion in the Hall of Fame.
It’s been a rough history with gambling for baseball. So, while sports fans might rejoice, don’t blame baseball fans for looking at the new law with a wary eye.