The Supreme Court has ruled that you should read me at your own risk.
When I write that Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. is expected to have a huge game against Rutgers, does that constitute inside information, or simply a hunch? Should you wager the works? Double down? Bet the over? Stay away?
And who to blame for your financial loss if Haskins throws three picks? The QB? Urban Meyer? Organized crime?
So many questions. So few answers. So much speculation. So little clarity. At least so far. There remains a lot to work out, but Monday’s Supreme Court ruling that struck down a federal ban on state-sanctioned sports betting will have qualitative and quantitative effects on fan behavior. For example, one measurable you can bank on is an increase in TV ratings as viewers — who might or might not be sports fans — tune in to track their parlays.
The court ruling opens the floodgates for states to allow sports gambling, and one study estimates that nearly 35 states would offer wagering within five years. If Ohio is one of them — Gov. John Kasich and the Republican nominee for governor, Mike DeWine, are not hot on legalized betting; Democratic gubernatorial nominee Richard Cordray is open to the idea — what might that mean for Ohio State football and basketball?
Will large swaths of Buckeye Nation go numb when Illinois scores its only touchdown with five seconds left to beat the 35-point spread? Will fans root for J.K. Dobbins to sit the fourth quarter so he doesn’t reach 150 yards?
On a larger scale, will the ability to wager on individual statistics weaken our obsession with team results, the way fantasy leagues pull at the allegiances of fans who weigh the impact on their wallets against the tug on their hearts?
Sports betting already occurs, of course, albeit illegally in most states, which limits participation and confines cultural impact. The reach of the court decision will be dramatic, affecting both the big picture and the specifics of each sport.
Take golf, for instance. Something as seemingly insignificant as a sore toe takes on potentially significant ramifications because of sports betting.
College football coaches who hate to reveal specific injuries might be in for a rude awakening if legalized gambling necessitates that the NCAA or conferences push for detailed injury information that resembles the NFL's weekly injury reports. The NHL might feel that pinch, too. A listing of “upper-body injury” might no longer suffice.
Then there is the threat of a “mob” mentality. Will legalized gambling make coaches and athletes more or less susceptible to criminal fixing? One could argue that legalizing betting would be like legalizing marijuana, the effect being that the black market would lose much of its power to corrupt.
I mostly discount such a comparison, because with gambling, the product is people, not plants. And people succumb to temptation, especially where money is involved. The more money, the higher the risk of selfish behavior. And legalized gambling will increase the flow of cash tenfold.
Also, if you think the push to pay college athletes is strong now, wait until more billions are being made off their performances. Why should they sit still for that?
Finally, the power of persuasive testimony will be at play. What to do with “investment” information?
“Inside information is a gray area … there’s a blurred line,” PGA Tour official Andy Levinson told The Action Network, explaining that what a player tells the media could pose a problem, from the perspective of what information gets reported when.
In other words, it could get messy. Check that, it will get messy. Stay tuned.