THAT’S A BIG SPREAD –
Nov. 2021 – As a direct result, sports-betting revenues grew 69 percent from 2019 to 2020 and another 270 percent during the first quarter of 2021. Total gambling revenues in the U.S. are set to break the $44 billion mark this year, approaching the size of the market for movies, books, and music combined. For a certain kind of American bettor, yesterday’s Thanksgiving celebration meant wagering on favorites as much as eating turkey or passing out in front of the game. (In the NFL, by the way, playing the favorites is usually a poor bet because they tend to be overvalued, but on Thanksgiving the opposite is true: Since 2003, favored teams have beaten the spread an absurd 73.2 percent of the time, not counting this year’s games. Please do not take this as betting advice. As they say, I’ve always been lucky with gambling: I’ve never won.)
For society as a whole, if such a thing exists anymore, there are benefits as well as costs to legal gambling. The chief benefit is that there’s a lot of money to be made, for governments and businesses both. The primary cost is that many unlucky and vulnerable people are destroyed. American society has accepted that trade-off—big money now for social crisis later—on any number of fronts: in its banking sector, in its housing markets, in its health-care industry. The rise of gambling is simply one example of our boundless desire for risk.