COLUMN: Thoughts about sports betting

Pete Temple
Express Sports Editor

     A few notes about sports betting, which seems likely to become reality in the State of Iowa:

     • I was surprised to learn that a majority of Iowans don’t want this to pass, based on the Iowa Poll that the Des Moines Register published in late February.

     I would have thought the idea of the state benefitting from legalizing sports betting, and then taxing it, would appeal to most people. The poll showed 52 percent against, 40 percent in favor, and the rest unsure.

     Maybe that will change if and when it becomes available.

     • I have no idea how I will handle this if a sports betting law passes and is signed by the governor. But as a wise man once told me, “The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.” (OK, it was Jerry Schubick, after he had fired a winning shot past me on the tennis court when I had moved the wrong way.)

     So, if it passes, I’ll probably treat sports betting the way I treat horse and greyhound racing. That is, I’ll allow myself a $100 bankroll, which needs to last the entire calendar year.

     As for the actual betting, I’ll probably do what I have done on our trips to Las Vegas. My wife and I have gone there in the summer a few times, and I have learned that I enjoy betting on baseball games, usually taking underdogs, since a single baseball game in a 162-game season is probably the least predictable event of a sports year.

     Another thing I might do is bet an occasional NBA game. There was a night in January 2018 when the Chicago Bulls were playing at Indiana against the Pacers. The Bulls had played in Dallas the night before. The Pacers not only had the previous night off, they were getting star Victor Oladipo back from an injury. A Pacer romp might have been the closest thing to a sure thing a person could find, and sure enough, Indiana won by more than 20.

     I also enjoy future bets. That is, taking big odds on a team to win the World Series, or Super Bowl. I have never hit one of these, but they are fun to follow throughout the year.

     Another fun thing is a season over/under bet. For instance, oddsmakers might post a number of 11.5 for the New England Patriots, and you can bet on whether they will win 12 or more games that season, or 11 or fewer.

     The best thing about a future bet is that it is a single bet that lasts the whole season, so it’s hard to lose a ton of money on it.

     The key, of course, will be to have fun with it, and not go crazy trying to get rich quick. I learned a long time ago that by betting moderately, you can have a fun experience even if you lose. And if you come out ahead, that much the better.

     • Sports betting might get me to watch a sport I normally don’t: NASCAR auto racing.

     A few years ago, in Vegas, I placed a $5 bet on a NASCAR race, picking Clint Bowyer to win. Because there are so many drivers in a race, the odds on many of them can be ridiculously high.

     I don’t remember which race it was, but Bowyer was in the hunt, and then got real close to the lead near the end after a caution flag moved everybody back together.

     Bowyer didn’t win, but if he had, I would have won over $200. It’s safe to say my heart was pounding faster for that NASCAR race than for any other before or since.

     • My only hesitation about this law is the affect it might have on horse racing, which remains my favorite sport. From what I’ve been reading, the horse people are cautiously optimistic. Will the sport thrive because sports betting will bring more people out to racetracks, thus exposing them to its product? Or will racing struggle because people are wagering on other sports instead?

     Not sure which way I’d bet on that one.



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