States Should Get Into The Sports Gambling Game

Oct 28, 2015
Originally published on October 28, 2015 7:32 am

I have an idea to help the Republicans solve their presidential nominating dilemma: Let's have a fantasy primary campaign. The Fox network can run it, and the voters will choose which candidates they think will win the various primaries.

After all, fantasy is in, fantasy is fantastic. In sports, fantasy is giving reality a run for its money. Why should sports have all the fun?

Now, the general idea goes back at least to 1949 when Germaine G. Glidden, a distinguished portrait painter and former squash champion, who liked to go by the romantic, spy-like moniker of G-3, proposed to his brother that he could pick 10 baseball batters who could hit for a higher average than any 10 his brother could choose. This quickly evolved into what was called The Three Hundred Club, with a substantial membership. And, then, so far as we know, the first sophisticated football fantasy version was dreamed up by a businessman named Bill "The Gill" Winkerbach in 1963.

Click the audio to hear more about Frank Deford's fantastical idea.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Now, let's hear another tale from sports commentator Frank Deford.

FRANK DEFORD, BYLINE: I had an idea to help the Republicans solve their presidential nominating dilemma. Let's have a fantasy primary campaign. The Fox network can run it, and the voters will choose which candidates they think will win the various primaries. After all, fantasy is in. Fantasy is fantastic. In sports, fantasy is giving reality a run for its money. Why should sports have all the fun? Now, the general idea goes way back, at least to 1949, when Germaine Glidden, a distinguished portrait painter and former squash champion who liked to go by the romantic spy-like moniker of G-3, proposed to his brother that he could pick ten baseball batters who could hit for a higher average than any ten his brother could choose. This quickly evolved into what was called the Three Hundred Club, with a substantial membership. And then, so far as we know, the first sophisticated football fantasy version was dreamed up by a businessman named Bill The Gill Winkenbach in 1963 (laughter). Let's hear it for the founding fantasy fathers, G-3 and Bill The Gill. Nowadays, of course, fantasy sport is measured in the billions of dollars. Moreover, for further certification, the New York attorney general is looking into the likelihood that there has been, in effect, insider trading. In fact, the fantasy sports business is often compared to the stock market. Almost surely, a part of the success of fantasy sports is that the U.S. law insanely prohibits legal, basic, single-game gambling, except in one privileged state, Nevada. You see, according to Congress, betting on games is gambling, but betting on the players who play in the games is a skill. Of course, the law is madness, but it does steer law-abiding fans who gamble on sports to the fantasy side of the street. Well, now, not quite all fans are so persnickety. Americans spend more than $300 billion on sports illegally each year, allowing the mob and friendlier bookies to keep what would be billions in tax money for the states. If only American citizens were allowed to do what they are determined to do and what many are already doing on websites outside our borders. Our state governments started lotteries to take over the numbers rackets. They might as well elbow into the sports gambling business, too. The profits are no fantasy. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.