Ban gambling on college sports? It can be made illegal, but it will still happen

Pitt AD Heather Lyke would like gambling on college sports to be banned because the behavior worries her. Sadly for her, laws do not change behavior.

Gambling happens.  If there is a game, someone has money riding on the outcome.  Russian ping pong during the early parts of the pandemic taught us that.

Still, Heather Lyke, the athletic director at Pitt, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday that she and every other AD in the ACC would like gambling on college athletics to be banned, “We urge Congress to directly address gambling on intercollegiate athletics and prohibit it,” Lyke told the committee.

Naive people always believe that legislating against an activity will cause it to cease.  All Lyke and her peers need to do is look at gambling prior to its legalization for proof that is not the way the world works.  She could also watch an episode or two of Breaking Bad to see that passing laws prohibiting the manufacture and use of meth did nothing to deter Walter White and Jesse Pinkman.  She could also visit Pittsburgh hotels where prostitutes ply their wares in the lobbies and bars.  Hell, murders are being committed in American cities in record numbers this month.  Murder is REALLY illegal.

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If anything, legalizing gambling has brought it out of the shadows and away from offshore websites where murky behavior has visited itself on college sports in the past.  As illogical as it might seem to Lyke, legalizing gambling actually reduces the likelihood of fixers working with athletes to corrupt a sport.  It allows the government to regulate it, making game fixing more difficult.

When administrators testify before bureaucrats, it’s a good bet what is offered will lack real world understanding of market economics and common sense.  It might make headlines, but it should never impact policy.  Behaviors can be made illegal, but they will never be eliminated or even curtailed.  Why?  Because the market overcomes law just as Covid-19 overcomes good intentions and water seeks its level.

And there will always be a market for gambling on college sports.


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