Atlanta United’s Darren Eales has joined team presidents of the Atlanta Braves, Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta Hawks to urge Georgia lawmakers to legalize betting on games, according to a report from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The four organizations have joined to form a non-profit called the Georgia Professional Sports Integrity Alliance, Inc., which filed with the state on October 3. The report says that the newly-formed group sent a letter to state lawmakers urge them to allow bets on games that can be made online and on cell phones.
While sports betting is seen as taboo in the United States, it’s a major part of the sports scene in several other countries, most notably the United Kingdom, which is littered with brick-and-mortar betting parlors, gambling advertising, and even in-stadium stands to place bets. It’s also worth noting that sports betting is legal in certain parts of the United States already.
The long-held fear of legalized sports gambling is that the money involved would corrupt the game and leave players, coaches, and referees vulnerable to nefarious external influence. But the Georgia Professional Sports Integrity Alliance argues, according to the report, that they don’t stand to make profits directly from wagers. Instead, simply allowing fans to make bets would increase their engagement with the various teams.
MLS Commissioner Don Garber has long been in favor of such a move, saying nearly a year ago before the 2018 MLS Cup Final between Atlanta United and Portland Timbers:
“If people are going to do it, you might as well manage it, organize it. You might as well generate tax revenue for it and find ways that the league could use it as a marketing tool to have people engage more with our players and our clubs.”
”At the end of the day, the most important thing for Major League Soccer as it relates to the potential of legalized sports betting is not necessarily revenue-driven. It’s how do we engage more and more fans to participate, to get closer to our teams, to participate more deeply in our games.”
Other commissioners in various other leagues have also supported this type of legislation, most notably Adam Silver of the National Basketball Association, who penned an op-ed in the New York Times way back in November 2014, just months after assuming his current role as commissioner.
What do you think about this? Would you gamble on Atlanta United games? Would you care if others did?