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With a shrug: Legalize all sports gaming

iStock.com/sb-borg

It's been three weeks since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal law that prohibits betting in states that didn't already have it established in law. That means going forward, states will be able to decide for themselves whether gambling will be permitted on sports events.

Already, Delaware has jumped into the game, legalizing betting in hopes of earning revenue from an industry that has been operating underground for years. West Virginia, Mississippi and Pennsylvania already are headed in the same direction.

North Dakota and Minnesota might just as well do it, too. That's not a rousing endorsement, we understand, but one done with a literal shrug. Gambling has become so prevalent in North Dakota, Minnesota and elsewhere that we figure it just as well become legalized so states can benefit from it, either by sponsoring betting or collecting taxes from it.

At present, there are lotteries in 44 states, including North Dakota and Minnesota. Legal casinos exist in 43 states, also including North Dakota and Minnesota. Even with these legal options, Americans illegally bet $150 billion on sports each year.

What kind of money can come from legalizing gambling? Here's an example: In Rhode Island, the governor already has added $24 million in expected sports gambling revenue to the 2019 budget. Rhode Island's population is slightly more than a million residents; North Dakota's population is 684,000 and Minnesota's is 5.3 million, so we assume there could be real money raised in our states, too.

After it's legalized here — and we would bet $10 that it will be — we suggest that at least a portion of the revenue be earmarked for specific "good" programs. Scholarships, for instance — because something good must come from legalized sports gambling, which no doubt will come with all sorts of unfortunate side effects.

For instance: On a news segment on CNBC, Steven Malanga, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, warned that legalizing sports betting will come with an economic cost.

He said studies show that anywhere from 20 to 40 percent of lottery and casino patrons are pathological gamblers. He said that when California legalized the lottery years ago, the grocery industry reported that it resulted in a downturn on grocery sales. Spending on traditional entertainment options decreases, too, he said.

He also claims legalized forms of gambling do not result in lower taxes.

Here in North Dakota and Minnesota, we wonder how it will affect American Indian casinos and charitable gaming, and we also worry about the inevitable increase in gambling-related family and financial problems.

We aren't against gambling, but question why there has to be so much of it and why options seem to always be expanding.

Yet, as noted, we shrug and figure many forms of gambling legally exist and people are betting on sports already.

States may just as well benefit from it.

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