NAACP Executive in Ohio Wants Lawmakers to Stop Discussing Sports Betting

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Ohio is one of a handful of states where sports betting legalization is on the table. A bill to bring the activity to the state has already made it past the Senate, but still needs to get by lawmakers in the House of Representatives. Ahead of the latter chamber’s return to work next month, opponents of the move are attempting to sway public sentiment and some held a press conference yesterday in support of their cause. Among those present was the head of the Ohio Conference of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), who believes that sports betting is a “predatory practice.”

NAACP Calls Out Sports Betting

Despite sports betting now being in some form of legalization in over 30 US states and DC, there is still a great deal of opposition to the activity. Ohio has witnessed a considerable amount of friction with its attempts to introduce a legal market, but progress is still being made. Differences among lawmakers on how the market should be structured have slowed the approval process down, but the state’s House of Representatives is expected to dive in and discuss the topic when the chamber returns to duty in September. However, it’s likely to either introduce major changes or its own bill, which could make the path toward legalization even longer.

Ahead of the start of the new session, Les Bernal, the executive director of Stop Predatory Gambling, and Tom Roberts, the president of the Ohio Conference of the NAACP participated in a virtual press conference yesterday. The goal was to further their efforts at stopping the sports betting bill from advancing, with Bernal referring to all forms of gambling as a “predatory practice” that targets the communities of color. He also asserted that the sports betting bill is a casino-backed initiative, even though many of these backed PASPA until it was defeated in 2018, and that middle- and upper-class people typically don’t visit casinos.

Roberts echoed much of Bernal’s sentiment but added that legalized sports betting isn’t necessary since it is currently possible for almost anyone to bet on a sports event. This overlooks the obvious, which is that there is no way to provide player protection without legalization and it also makes it impossible to prevent underage sports betting.

Ohio Needs More Money for Education

Bernal appears to believe that most gamblers are degenerates that don’t know how to control their finances. This is despite the fact that research has shown that only around 5% of all gamblers could be defined as having a gambling problem. Despite the wide access to gambling activity across the US, the country doesn’t even rank in the top ten of per-capita expense, according to H2 Gambling Capital. Bernal also fails to understand that legalizing gambling is the only way to introduce controls to help problem gamblers and others know when to take breaks.

The subject of Ohio’s education system came up during the press conference, as well, with both Bernal and Roberts acknowledging that the state needs more education funds. Since every state that has introduced sports betting so far has ensured that much of the tax revenue goes to education, both childhood and adult, legalized sports betting will help give the state’s school system a boost. Part of that education includes educating individuals on the risks of gambling, just like they’re taught about the risks of alcohol abuse, drug abuse, and more.

Trying to prevent legalized sports betting is an exercise in futility, just like the liquor prohibition in the 1920s. It took 13 years for lawmakers to realize they were fighting a losing battle before repealing the law and, instead, regulating alcohol to educate and earn revenue. Hopefully, this time around, lawmakers can be a little quicker to act.

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