Sports betting is now legal and will soon be a common experience for sports fans. It will change the way we consume games, whether you have money on the line or not. Most professional leagues (if not all professional leagues) will embrace the gambling side of their respective sport. The networks will put an emphasis on the spread in each game, and handicapping will become a large portion of your favorite sports shows. Broadcasters will no longer make passing references to the backdoor cover; they will say it straight into the microphone when that meaningless field goal flips the betting outcome. Everything is about to change.
The biggest change, though, will be the economical impact on the states that embrace sports betting. New Jersey is ready to go and will be taking your bets in time for the NBA Finals. Other states, including West Virginia, are ready to capitalize on the new opportunity to rake in millions of dollars. And they will rake in millions and millions of dollars annually. New Jersey officials think they can bring in $8 billion in bets per year. Billion. Imagine all of the money those bettors will spend on hotels, food, booze and other forms of tourism, too.
But in Kentucky, I’m afraid we’ll be left behind. We’ll see West Virginia, Indiana, Illinois and Ohio build massive sports books that many of us will drive across state lines to visit. We’ll dump our money into the neighboring sports books the way we already dump our money into those nasty, smokey casinos that nobody really wants to visit anyway. Imagine all of the people already leaving Kentucky to pull a slot machine lever, and then double or triple or quadruple that number to get the waves of sports fans leaving Kentucky to place a bet on the Wildcats. It will happen if Kentucky doesn’t answer the bell and reap the benefits of this new legalization of sports gambling.
Imagine going to Red Mile on your way to Rupp Arena for that Tuesday night game. Red Mile could be a gold mine in this basketball-crazed city/state. March Madness alone could bring in so much money (money this state desperately needs) if Kentucky jumped on board. The states that do it first will own the sports gambling scene in each region by becoming a destination spot for sports fans. Why couldn’t Kentucky be the one to do it?
Unfortunately, we all know what will happen here in the Bluegrass. We’ll watch state after state do it first until it’s too late to become a major player. My guess is Kentucky will be the 50th state to legalize it, probably sometime in the year 2045.
But hey, horse racing! Right?
Do the right thing, Kentucky.