Couldn't get lucky

If you want to gamble on sports, you can do it a lot of different ways these days. Here in Oregon, the super-legal way is through the state "lottery" commission, with an online operation called Scoreboard. But they don't let you bet on college games, and their website and app are pretty clunky, and so not too many hard-core gamblers play there much. The state is supposed to hand the operation over to a different outfit, called DraftKings, but that does not appear to have happened yet. And even when it does, I believe the action is still going to be limited.

The alternatives to the "lottery" setup all appear to be illegal, at least for the operators, but for the players, it's kind of a gray area, and there's no real enforcement these days. So at least a handful of leading offshore outifts are glad to be your online bookie. Just download their app to your phone from the app store and plunk down some money. They'll probably want bitcoin, to try to keep themselves out of prison.

Late last week, one of the heavily used foreign shops, Bovada, went down for more than two days – it seemed more like three. The operator, which I believe is based in Costa Rica, said it was from a software update gone bad, but that didn't seem to justify the length of the blackout. And given that its milieu is the internet, you can imagine all the other theories that were running wild as the outage persisted.

I had to laugh reading some of the tweets from the outraged gamblers, who were claiming major damages from their inability to place bets. "I woulda had the Colts!" and so on. Some of them also howled that they had tens of thousands of dollars in their Bovada accounts, and were worried that the money had been lost.

If they're as good at gambling on sports as I am, they should have sent Bovada a thank-you note.

Anyway, the Bo peeps got their act back together yesterday, and they gave everybody some bonus play money for their inconvenience. Even the smallest of small fry got $30 of bonus bets, subject to a lot of fine print. The bigger fish got $150. But I'm sure anybody with real dough on account with them has had their confidence shaken.

The thing about the offshore sites is that if someting goes wrong, there doesn't seem to be much recourse for the U.S. gambler. No government in this country is going to go to bat for the players who booked with a site that's illegal under U.S. law. So what are you going to do, try to get help from the authorities in Costa Rica? You'll need more than gambler's luck there.

Oregon ought to let Scoreboard (or DraftKings) do college games. The main reason they don't, I think, is to try to attract the national college basketball tournaments to Portland. The suits running college sports are shocked, shocked I say, when they discover there's gambling going on, and if the state condones it, there will be no March madness for you.

But given the bad shape Portland is in, and given what the virus is about to do to those tournaments for the second straight year, the tourism is probably a lost cause for quite a while. The legislature probably ought to wise up. Let Oregonians do what they're already doing without worrying about a 404 message they're getting from Costa Rica. Let the state get a cut. Let DraftKings spruce up the app. College sports will drop the phony integrity spiel and come around eventually.


  1. People have been betting on whatever can be bet on since the beginning of time, I guess. But the way gambling has recently permeated all sports coverage is really putting me off. At least before, if you didn't care about wagering you could just enjoy a game for what it was without endless hyping of the permutations and combinations of bets, and endless promotion of gambling games and sites. KOIN's channel 6-3 is 24 hours of 'analysis' for degenerate gamblers. Owners of pro sports teams are annexing betting shops onto their stadiums. I think the lesson we got as kids that gambling was a ok as a once in a while indulgence, but should be kept away from polite society, was about right. I always enjoyed a bit of friendly betting at games, like whether the ball would end up on or off the mound when the ump rolled it out. But serious sports betting sucks the fun out of it for me. It's getting so big, I'm worried that it will start influencing rulemaking, to preserve the integrity of the spread, or some such. That may be unlikely, but I think there will be increasing influences, both subtle and overt, on the way sports are played and enjoyed. And it will be suckier.

    As a side note, I exempt just-for-fun charity games like the one you run from my little rant.


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