With that challenge, two kids would hook pinkies and seal a wager, a quaint ritual of childhood. The stakes were not much because, let’s face it, kids didn’t have much to wager.
Those days are long gone, replaced by an overload of high profile sports book sites with swanky ads designed to lure bettors in.
And all with the approval of the professional sports leagues that once were terrified of the concept of gambling on their games.
The pro leagues used to shudder at the mention of Las Vegas, also known in the old days as “Sin City.’’ You could gamble there, bet on just about any event at the sports books located in the casinos. The city scared the daylights out of the holier than thou sports leagues.
And then, things changed.
The Supreme Court opened the floodgates for legalized sports betting in 2018 and since then, more than 30 states have joined in the fun.
Today, Las Vegas has a team in the NHL and another team in the NFL. The Super Bowl will be played there in a couple of years. When Oakland fails to fund a new stadium for the A’s, major league baseball could land there, too.
Gambling is a national obsession. Don’t for a moment believe that fans would flock to race tracks in the numbers they do if they didn’t have parimutuel windows.
Now there is a bill meandering its way through New York State government that would authorize the installation of betting kiosks in all sports arenas and stadiums in the state. Step right up and place your bets. It was P.T. Barnum who observed “There’s a sucker born every minute.’’
Sports wagering became legal in New York last month and in the first 30 days, it generated $70.6 million in tax revenue based on losses of more than $138 million, according to Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office.
Much of this was as a result of America’s favorite day for betting – the Super Bowl. It’s not as simple as betting on one team or the other or deciding whether the point spread was appropriate. That is so old fashioned. Now we have prop bets when you can wager on anything and everything that happens during the daylong tribute to American excess. An estimated 18.2 million Americans bet a little or a lot on what went on, in and around the game between the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams.
All of this has become easier thanks to sports sites like DraftKings and FanDuel. Caesar’s Sports Book hired the Manning Family – poppa Archie, quarterbacks Eli and Peyton, and third son Cooper to peddle its platform to potential customers and just to spice things up, added a half-dressed Cleopatra to the show.
On the horizon is the NCAA Tournament. March Madness should be a bonanza for the gamblers and their enablers.
And Pete Rose, who once bet on baseball, still can’t get into the Hall of Fame without buying a ticket.