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Norman Chad: We should be allowed to bet on sports, then have sense not to

UPDATED: Mon., Nov. 27, 2017

NBA commissioner Adam Silver has come out in favor of legalizing sports betting. (Julie Jacobson / AP)
NBA commissioner Adam Silver has come out in favor of legalizing sports betting. (Julie Jacobson / AP)
By Norman Chad Syndicated columnist

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments next week on Christie v. NCAA.

At issue for the justices: Whether the federal government has the right to control state lawmaking. At issue for the rest of us: Whether we have the right to make a sports bet legally.

Here’s a dumbed-down, microwaved version of the case that I can understand so you can understand:

In 2011, New Jersey voters approved the legalization of sports betting. The NCAA, NBA, NHL, NFL and MLB challenged this, saying it would violate the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act – better known as PASPA, or “You Can’t Bet” – which essentially prohibits states from sanctioning any wagering on sporting events.

New Jersey pretty much keeps losing on this issue, and now has appealed its case to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court will decide if PASPA violates the anti-commandeering doctrine of the 10th Amendment. I have no idea what the anti-commandeering doctrine of the 10th Amendment is, I just know I can’t bet on the Colts-Jaguars game Sunday.

(By the way, most people aren’t even aware of the 10th Amendment – it certainly lacks the sizzle of the First or Second Amendments.)

Now, intellectually, I realize there is no reason I shouldn’t be allowed to bet on the Colts-Jaguars game; intellectually, I also realize I shouldn’t bet on any game, but we’ll get back to that in a moment.

Here’s what we know, incontrovertibly, irretrievably and undeniably:

1. We are a nation of gamblers.

2. Gamblers like to gamble.

3. Even when gamblers are not allowed – by law – to gamble, they will find a way to gamble.

You can’t stop people from doing what they do; economists are a perfect example of this. So, with gambling, we should legalize it, regulate it and tax it.

But, just as we do with, say, alcohol, all of us need to be vigilant about the habit. If you gamble – or know friends and family who gamble – it is imperative to make sure the gambling doesn’t morph from casual to chronic. Problem gambling is serious, gambling addiction can be tragic.

Quitting betting on sports was the best decision of my adult life. I would think too much about which games to bet in the morning, I would adjust my schedule too much to follow those games in the evening. Even if I won – and, ultimately, in the long run I was going to lose – it occupied a disproportionate amount of my emotional energy and had the potential to ruin my professional and personal life.

Thus, after one very bad fortuitous week in 1984, I stopped making sports bets.

But if others want to bet, they should be able to bet.

And, as MLS commissioner Don Garber said earlier this year, “I don’t think we can stop it, so maybe we’d even lead the charge.”

Translation: Somebody’s going to make money off of it, it may as well be us.

Indeed, when NBA commissioner Adam Silver came out in favor of legalized sports betting in 2014, he didn’t suddenly have a moral epiphany, he just understood it was in the league’s best interest to profit from the action.

Like the old saying goes, “You can’t stop progress.” Alas, sometimes progress is regress.

Let me repeat the truest thing I have ever said:

We should have the freedom to gamble more and the common sense to gamble less.

That freedom is being addressed in New Jersey’s years-long effort to legalize sports betting.

Christie v. NCAA is a fascinating case with far-reaching implications. How will the Supreme Court interpret the issue of the power of the federal government vis-á-vis states rights? I can’t pretend to know; this is above Couch Slouch’s pay grade. But, in my gambling gut, I believe PAPSA will be overturned, allowing states to decide whether they want to legalize sports betting, and many will.

Besides, according to my sources, eight of the nine Supreme Court justices – Ruth Bader Ginsburg being the lone exception – play daily fantasy sports.

Ask The Slouch

Q. Will Jerry Jones sue Santa Claus if he doesn’t find Roger Goodell’s resignation letter in his Christmas stocking on Dec. 25? (Bill Voit; Fairfax, Va.)

A. Jones would never cut off his nose to spite his face – by then, he might need Santa to get his Cowboys into the playoffs.

Q. Is it wrong that I prefer to watch “Monday Night Football” in Spanish, a language I don’t speak, just so I don’t have to listen to Jon Gruden? (Andrew Hoenig; Rockville, Md.)

A. Yo entiendo y tienes mis simpatías.

Q. Coaches are always making “game-day decisions.” Did you ever make a “wedding-day decision”? (Gary Bowling; Cross Lanes, W.Va.)

A. On (at least) two occasions, my wedding-day decision to show up has been somewhat faulty.

Q. Since Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump are such good friends, will the U.S. men’s soccer team get an invitation to the 2018 World Cup in Russia? If so, which Eastern European nation is “on the bubble”? (John Huber; Montgomery Village, Md.)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just email and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!

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