Supreme Court ruling opens doors to sports gambling

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SAN DIEGO -- Most people watch sports to root for their favorite team, but things could get more interesting after the Supreme Court overturned a 27-year-old law that prohibited gambling on sporting events in most states.

The ruling means that states can now decide on whether they want to set up a legalized gambling procedure that could reap billions of dollars, but at what cost?

The Supreme Court's ruling eliminates just one roadblock for states wanting to legalize gambling on sporting events.

"You're going to see some opposition to this," said George Belch, a sports marketing professor at San Diego State University. "I think the way has been paved but I don't think by any means we're going to turn around and see this happen in a few months."

Belch says states like California will still have to go through a legislative process, ultimately leaving the decision up to the voters.

Estimates say gamblers wager more than $150 billion on sports every year, providing a tremendous revenue opportunity for various leagues, businesses and states.

"If you think of the revenue potential that could mean for a state like California, we have more than 10 percent of the population, we have a very strong economy, we have a proximity to Nevada and clearly people in California like to bet," said Belch.

The decision to allow legal sports betting doesn't come without concern -- for starters, the ramifications gambling could have on the integrity of games.

For example, former University of San Diego point guard Brandon Johnson received a six-month prison sentence in 2013 for his role in a game-fixing scheme and illegal sports gambling operation.

"The universities always have to educate their athletes to stay away from the gamblers or the boosters who want to put money in their pockets," said Belch. "I think long-term there could be a little bit of concern about people trying to get into point shaving. But again, if you look at Europe -- soccer is huge in Europe, betting on sports is huge in Europe -- and they seem to be able to exist with it. And my guess is they'll find a way here."

The other factor to consider is the addiction to gambling.

"So you really have to ask yourself, how easy do we want to make it for people to gamble?" said Belech. "If we take an addiction to gambling and we have people on mobile devices on their phone, as simple as tapping an app and making a bet, that might not be a good thing."

Each individual state will determine how they want to proceed but New Jersey, which originated the lawsuit in 2011, hopes to begin in time for the NBA finals, which tip off May 31.

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