Betting on sports can have disastrous results

Jack Stensland, Sports Editor

In the world of sports, the stakes can be intensified multiple ways. Whether it be the championship game or a heavy rivalry, nothing can raise the stakes higher than sports betting.

Putting money on a team adds another dimension to the game that gives more excitement to the fans.  Bets allow the fans to really feel the victory alongside the team as well as experience the agony of defeat.  Gambling on sports can be found all across the country, from Las Vegas and Atlantic City to family households and high schools.

Spring sports showcase many individual talents making it a gambler’s paradise. Swimming and diving are broken down into individual events, tennis and golf are divided into separate individual matches and baseball is highly dependent on individual stats. With known Vegas swings and the profits of millions of dollars off of the  NCAA March Madness Basketball Tournament, students may become inclined to bet more frequently.

“When I want to earn more spending money I usually sell candy bars and water around the neighborhood and to my friends,” sophomore Mike Barber said. “Betting on a good race, however, is less tedious than selling candy and I can make more money in shorter amounts of time.”

Barber says that betting is only an activity that he does with close friends and that they keep their betting quiet from coaches. High school sports are not as competitive as collegiate or professional, but with the knowledge of a bet being placed on a game or race, a coach may be more tempted to play only the best players. Knowing that there are higher stakes on a game could lead a coach not not play certain players and take the fun out of sports for the benchwarmers. Gambling under-the-table on high school games is illegal and is grounds for firing the head coach.

During the NCAA tournament, the Duke Blue Devils took on the Utah Utes in the Sweet 16 round. The Blue Devils won the game — in route to winning the national championship — 63-57, but a foul that had no impact on the game, called with seven tenths of a second left, had a major impact in Vegas. The one last-second Blue Devil free throw covered the five point spread set in Vegas and distributed more than five million extra dollars to Duke supporters.

There were 50-to-1 odds for the University of Kentucky to complete their perfect season. When the Wildcats lost, the Westgate Superbook in Las Vegas won in the upper six-figures.

Like any other major sporting event, March Madness can be a source of high influence on students.  Seeing all of the profits made during the tournament may show students that the risk is worth the reward and encourage more students to bet on sports more often.

“I only make bets that I know I am going to win,” junior Austin Evans said. “There are just a couple guys that I can count on to consistently win and when I actually make bets I only bet on them. I only pick reliable winners with reputations of coming out on top.”

Hopefully Evans does not use a spread betting system like the ones in Vegas.  Under a spread bet, the probability of the heavy favorite winning the bet is diminished by a grey area of points, times or other stats added to the underdog.  Favorites only win a spread bet if they exceed the grey area addition to the underdog, the spread.

Unlike the professionals in Las Vegas gambling on sports to make a living, Evans agreed that bets made by high schoolers on games and races are far more relaxed.  The pot of bets rarely is higher than five dollars.

As seen in the professional sports world, gambling can get athletes in serious trouble. Betting on games has ruined the reputations of pristine baseball players such as “Shoeless” Joe Jackson and Pete Rose.  Florida Marlins pitcher Jarred Cosart is currently paying the MLB fines for allegedly betting on games in the offseason. Professional athletes have been found guilty on many occasions of betting on games; fortunately for the students who bet on games, there are no accounts of high school athletes being banned from sports or forced to pay fines for gambling on games.

“We aren’t dealing with millions of dollars here,” Evans said. “Its only for fun; most of the time I don’t even get paid.”

Gambling on sports can officially be added to the list of games designed to  make a few quick dollars in high school along with shooting die and playing cards. Sports bets, however, are easy ways to add fuel to the already existing fire created by competition, exciting fans and giving them more reasons to support sports programs.