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Chutzpah: The Future of Sports Betting?
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Chutzpah: The Future of Sports Betting?

By Mickey Charles, CEO of The Sports Network

Chutzpah.

It’s a wonderful word that transcends ethnic situations, language interpretations and knowledge.  There are many more, like “mench,” “putz,” “shmuck,” “bagel” “gelt,” “kibbitz,” “goy,” “klutz,” “maven,” “megillah,” “nebbish,” “nu (?)” “schlep,” “schmooze,” “shtick,” “vigorish” – really?  Yes, really – and a host of others.  Does knowledge of any  or all, even the ability to apply, however erroneously, mean automatic honorary membership into any of the original tribes, some of whom could still be wandering in a desert somewhere, or others whose whereabouts, to this day, are unknown?  Not likely but we have just added to your vocabulary, personal and, more likely, business substantially.  New meaning has arisen for bi-lingual, even in a vernacular sense, taking it from the idiomatic and used, but often misunderstood, to knowledge

Whether you are Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, Presbyterian, Mormon, Seventh Day Adventist. Atheist, Agnostic or inter-planetary visitor, it is likely that all know and understand “chutzpah.”  It derives from the Hebrew word ḥutspâ (חֻצְפָּה), meaning “insolence”, “cheek” or “audacity, nerve, guts, daring.

Adam Silver, the current NBA Commissioner, displayed an enviable amount of personal confidence and courage that, in exhibiting some chutzpah, allowed him to do or say things that may seem shocking to others.   It showed boldness, backbone and nerve…it was the sort of brass that garners respect from all who heard or read what he had to say…the reality of his words, unlaundered or edited, reflective of reality, a vision of what is and should be, an understanding of the world around all of us.  The man is to be applauded.  He does not couch the issue to suit him, his owner or player constituents nor the media.

He would have made a superb politician and, perhaps, he is just that in his role as Commissioner.   He served as Deputy Commissioner under David Stern, his mentor, and watched the sport choreographed to new levels and revenue increases on a global front.  He observed, took mental notes, absorbed like a sponge and then added his own slate of ingredients to the menu.  All good.

Wagering on sports, professional or otherwise, is currently illegal in most of the United States, aside from LaLa Land in Nevada, notably Las Vegas.  The NBA, with other professional sports, has opposed the expansion of legal, the key word here, sports betting.  Back in ’92, as he recalled, the leagues supported the passage by Congress of the Professional and Amateur   Sports Protection Act which generally prohibits states from authorizing sports betting.  It was outdated and silly at that time and is laughable and insulting to the mentality today on a much grander scale.

Sports betting is here to stay…it thrives, the public loves it, is drawn to it like moths to the light, and is out there without regulation or oversight.  Adam Silver understands and recognizes that.  There is no blindfold adorning his head nor a censorship form in his brain to curtail thoughts about gaming.  Wagers are placed anywhere and everywhere…Nevada, street bookmakers, betting operations off-shore.

No one knows how much is wagered illegally, no one!  Guesstimates are out of storybooks.  But, the bottom line is just that, the bottom line and it is huge…hundreds of billions is a safe estimate.

Lotteries are gambling and you cannot win.  Legal casinos always win in the long run but the “maybe this time” is ingrained as an adequate and acceptable reason for partaking…the raison d’etre.

The betting line is everywhere, save for the Wall Street Journal.  Odds are mentioned before and during games… price on the game and the over/under.  The New Jersey experience, that fiasco, cannot be a deterrent.  Gaming is legal in many countries and their societies have not deteriorated nor their governments fallen in disarray are bankruptcies everywhere.  No suicides, for example, from Big Ben or London Bridge.

Bets can be made on a smartphone at a stadium kiosk or with a television remote control…in England.  And, the Empire continues on.  Unreal!!

We, as Adam Silver pointed out, need a federal framework that allows states to authorize betting on professional sports, subject to strict regulatory requirements and technological safeguards.  Bump and smash!  That was the other shoe you just heard hitting the floor.  Governmental bodies notoriously regulate themselves out of situations demanding more elasticity.

Mandatory monitoring and reporting of unusual betting-line movements.  Not! And mostly meaningless.

Licensing protocol to ensure betting operators are legitimate.  Not!  Define “legitimate.”

Minimum age verification measures.  Not!  On the phone, laptop, etc.?

Geo-blocking technology to ensue betting is available only where legal.  Not!  Nice try.  See Tooth Fairy and Santa.

Mechanisms to identify and exclude people with gambling problems.  Not!  No way to do that without lie detectors everywhere, and I mean everywhere.

Education about responsible gaming.  Not!  Define that first and then educate how?  Handicap games and you have an attentive audience but you need winners.

However, as good as all that sounds, well-intended though it is, it is also akin to scaling Mt. Everest in the midst of a winter storm sans equipment or Sherpa guides.  There must be a realistic approach to what can be done and what cannot.  A comprehensive Federal solution, state measures like those undertaken in New Jersey will lack teeth, be unlawful and, perhaps, bad public policy.  I do not agree with Adam here about public policy since, for the most part, they either want it or do not really care if they are not interested in wagering.

As far as the integrity of the game and public confidence in the league and the sport, how do you influence any aspect of it given the monetary telephone numbers being dialed up as salaries, TV revenue, sponsorships, advertising, etc.?

Adam Silver has displayed an over-abundance of common sense and “chutzpah” when he encourages that sports betting should be brought out of the underground and into the sunlight where it can, we hope, be appropriately monitored and regulated.

That’s the whole megillah from a first class mench with an abundant, and enviable, amount of chutzpah.

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