While the tight presidential race had Americans all over the country sweating through Tuesday night, sports gambling legislation passed comfortably in three states: Maryland, South Dakota, and Louisiana. While this appears to be great news for expanding sports bettors' rights everywhere, the legislation passed did not go nearly far enough to educate voters on the specifics for cast informed votes. All three propositions left critical details open that will determine how sports bettors are treated. South Dakota legalized gambling only on the Native American reservation, where all of the state's casinos are located, likely limiting government oversight. In Louisiana, the regulatory framework and tax structure are completely undecided and will be up to the state legislature, not the people, to decide.
It is a significant problem that American voters are making this choice without full information. Two weeks ago, bettors accused William Hill of intentionally delaying the acceptance of in-game wagers, only accepting the bets where the house's standing had improved since the bet was made. Practices like this are unethical and hurt the consumer, but not all states with legal gambling have specific laws restricting this behavior. If it is to be left up to the voters whether or not sports gambling should be legal, they should know whether the laws they vote for will protect them from predatory practices.
It has long been time to legalize sports betting in the United States, but we all must stop viewing sports gambling legislation in the binary terms of "legal gambling" and "illegal gambling." The better lens is whether the government will protect players or not. If Americans are going to vote on sports gambling for themselves, an outline of proposed consumer protections and tax structures should be on the ballot as well.
Most Americans have shown they generally would rather have sports gambling than not. Still, adequate descriptions of the accompanying taxes and regulations should have been on the ballot, or sports gambling should not have been on the ballot at all. It's not too late, though. The electorate should stand up and demand the legislatures to pass reasonable, commonsense protections, like the Sports Bettors' Bill of Rights, and follow Virginia's example.