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Fri Nov 26, 2021, 09:14 AM


Gambling has become one of the defining pleasures of our time, the perfect accompaniment to an era of high-risk, rigged economies and a looming sense of collapse. Once there was Las Vegas; now there’s a Las Vegas in every phone.

You can bet on almost anything today. Elections. Literary prizes. If you have a feeling that, say, Lapuan Virkiä is going to beat Porin Pesakarhut in the women’s Superpesis, the top professional pesäpallo league in Finland, you can put your money where your mouth is. During the pandemic, as casinos and racetracks closed, you could wager on the evening’s forecast in real time, or on the upcoming winter snowfall. There was serious action on the highest daily temperatures of major American cities. Then there are the ads. If you watch sports regularly, you probably feel, as I do, that the games have become interruptions in a more or less constant barrage of wagering promotion. Gambling is swallowing sports.

The most straightforward reason for the surge in gambling is a change to the law: In 2018, the Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, opening the door to online sports betting across 21 states. As a direct result, sports-betting revenues grew 69 percent from 2019 to 2020 and another 270 percent during the first quarter of 2021. Total gambling revenues in the U.S. are set to break the $44 billion mark this year, approaching the size of the market for movies, books, and music combined. For a certain kind of American bettor, yesterday’s Thanksgiving celebration meant wagering on favorites as much as eating turkey or passing out in front of the game. (In the NFL, by the way, playing the favorites is usually a poor bet because they tend to be overvalued, but on Thanksgiving the opposite is true: Since 2003, favored teams have beaten the spread an absurd 73.2 percent of the time, not counting this year’s games. Please do not take this as betting advice. As they say, I’ve always been lucky with gambling: I’ve never won.)


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douglas9 Nov 2021 OP
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