Continuing to learn about the pluses and perils of legalizing sports bettingBy John L. Smith, CDC Gaming ReportsOctober 30, 2017 at 9:41 pmIn Australia and Great Britain, sports betting is not only legal, taxed and regulated, but experiencing a variety of stresses that won’t be foreign to the U.S. if the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act gets repealed and states are then allowed to approve legal bookmaking.Stadiums in London, for example, offer betting kiosks for fans attending soccer matches. On an ironic note, National Football League teams use those same stadiums when they play there despite the league’s trepidation about sports betting.And legalizing sports betting, of course, is no cure for sports fixing. In 2013, the English soccer world was turned on its head when a sports bribery scandal went public. The case resulted in multiple convictions.The match fixing scandals were reported to set a record for England, according to the Telegraph, which sourced a report from the European Parliament. But here’s the insightful part: Although 11 matches were believed to have been tainted, the fixing was chronicled by Federbet, an organization run by casino owners and bookmakers and one expressly created to monitor suspicious activity.It’s something those who understand Nevada’s sports book industry have known for a long time. It’s the bookmakers, forever scrutinizing the bets, who are the first to smell something rotten.Legal sports betting sites proliferate Australia, where citizens have been known to bet on the faster of “two flies up a wall.” (For those interested in better appreciating the nation’s love of sports gambling, try Peter Charlton’s 1987 book, I kid you not, “Two Flies Up a Wall: The Australian Passion for Gambling.”) Australians spend about $1 billion a year on sports betting, $2.6 billion on race betting. (And most of the rest of the estimated $20 billion total gets poured into video poker and lotto.)But Australian gamblers also pay a high price in the areas of problem gambling and, when it comes to sports wagering, sending wagers to unreliable and often fraudulent offshore sports books located mostly in Asia. That’s the challenge of legalized sports betting: It doesn’t mean illegal and unlicensed bookmakers will be put out of business.Just last week, senior members of Australia’s Black Economy Taskforce again warned sports bettors (known as punters) that Australians were losing many millions of dollars to offshore sports books as interested in money laundering as making book. The task force implored bettors to stay away form the offshore Internet sites, which are mainly based in Asian and have representatives in Australia.“Punters electing to be with unapproved offshore wagering operators are not only transacting with a business which is undermining their racing industry by paying no race-field fees, but they risk doing their money cold,” Racing Victoria integrity chief Dayle Brown said in a story reported in The Sydney Morning Herald. “In my experience it’s a rarity for anyone to win anything from these bookmakers, but they’ll certainly take your money. They have a systematic way of having the bets placed into Asia as just dragging away from the financial health of racing in Australia.”While some wonder whether expanding gambling and protecting the integrity of sports can coexist, I believe one can’t happen without the other.In the summary to their 2016 report for the AGA, “The Keys to Sports Integrity in the United States: Legalized, Regulated Sports Betting,” Dr. David Forrest and Rick Perry observed, “Despite being illegal, betting on sports is a common and generally accepted activity for Americans. … In fact, the proportion of American adults who place illegal wagers on sports proves to be roughly the same as those betting legally in Great Britain. … The United States and China represent the largest illegal sports betting markets in the world. By way of example, an illegal sports bookmaker who was prosecuted in New Jersey in the late 1990s had an annual volume of $200 million, higher than the largest legal bookmaker in Las Vegas.”There’s a lot left to know about the pluses and perils of expanding legalized sports betting, but the gambling world offers plenty of learning moments.John L. Smith is a longtime Las Vegas journalist and author. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @jlnevadasmith.