Legalize sports betting? You bet!

Jared Rogers-Martin

If you are a sports fan, you might be a criminal.

While sports fans won’t ever find their faces plastered on a wanted poster, they have engaged in an estimated $400 billion criminal industry: picking the home sports team for five bucks.

Despite becoming illegal in 1993 with the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, the practice of sports betting left regulated casinos and simply took a seat on your couch. The American Gaming Association estimates that fans spent $3.8 billion on illegal Super Bowl bets this year.

State lawmakers in New Jersey have filed bills to amend the 1993 law.

Minnesota’s own Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, joined their ranks and intends to bring her version of the bill to the state Legislature this week.

Some would call sports betting immoral, and a large majority might point out that betting and gambling can cause addictive behavior.

However, we should realize that Minnesota already allows a state lottery and permits tribal casinos. We can use money generated from regulated gambling for a noble cause, namely college education.

Programs like Georgia’s HOPE scholarship use funds gathered from the national lottery to help pay college tuition for high school students who graduate and maintain a 3.0 GPA. Minnesota — which is dealing with its own tuition problems — should mimic Georgia’s system.

Because Minnesota already allows gambling in some form, I urge voters to reflect on the potential benefits that legalizing sports betting might have on our universities. Kahn’s bill could provide a quick fix to some of our state’s problems. I bet you five dollars it works.