Sports And Politics Intersect Today…

I try not to inject politics into these rants for several reasons to include:

    I doubt anyone needs to hear my political views.

    I prefer to keep the comments here on a level of civil discourse.

    Pointing out the inane stuff in sports is more difficult than pointing out the inane stuff in politics.

Nevertheless, some of today’s items involve the collision of sports and politics and so you are going to hear a smidgen of my political views and I hope that any comments on this rant will reside in the realm of civility. Let me start with an item in President Obama’s Budget Proposal recently sent to the Congress. Not surprisingly, the Budget calls for expenditures and for changes in the tax structure to pay for those expenditures. Forget the macro-picture here, there is an item buried in the “tax reform section” that relates to sports and I like it a lot.

The proposed change – highly unlikely to be enacted sadly – would make it a lot more difficult for states and localities to build stadiums for professional teams and their owners. Without going into the details, most of the stadiums that have been built in the past 20 years or so would run afoul of the criteria set out by President Obama’s Budget Proposal to allow the issuance of tax-free municipal bonds as a way to pay for the stadiums. Of course I like this idea; it is half of something I suggested back in the late 1990s when stadium building threatened to reach epidemic proportions.

In addition, the proposal would tighten the loopholes that now exist which allow the Niners to build Levi Stadium pretty much on their own and operate it pretty much on their own and keep the revenue from all the events in the stadium pretty much on their own – but have the city listed as the actual owner of the stadium such that the Niners pay no local taxes on the real estate. How cozy is that?

Local governments need the concept of municipal bonds and their exemption from Federal Income Tax to fund local capital improvements. The tax-exempt feature allows small cities to raise money at low interest rates because bond holders keep all the interest they earn and do not have to pay a portion to Uncle Sam every April. Without that feature, interest rates for many small cities could double and their debt burden would become much more onerous.

Forget the stuff in the other 1500 pages of the latest Budget Proposal; I would not even pretend to have read it nor would I understand the implications of most of the items in there. This proposal is a good one; it ought to be enacted. The chances that it ever sees the light of day are minuscule…

You can read more about this subject here.

The other item involving sports and politics today originates in the Congress and so you may anticipate that I will hold it in low regard. And you would be correct in said anticipation… Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) reintroduced a bill to reimpose a Federal ban on wagering via the internet. Moreover, Sen Lindsay Graham (R-SC) indicated that he would introduce similar legislation in the Senate. Let me reset the stage here…

    About 4 years ago, the DoJ issued an opinion/finding (I am not sure of the proper legal term here) saying that the Wire Act of 1961 applies only to Internet wagering on sports and not on other forms of gambling. Chaffetz’ legislation would ban it all.

Anyone who has read these rants for more than a month or so has to realize that I support the idea of sports wagering and – even though I choose not to do things like play online poker – I support the idea that adults should make that choice for themselves. Yes, some people will abuse that privilege and be damaged by their gambling activities but that is not a reason to ban it for everyone. Think about it; some people abuse prescription drugs. Should we ban the use or even the possession of prescription drugs because a few idiots abuse them?

I have at least one other objection here. I doubt that this can be enforced. We have tried Prohibition; that did not work at all. We have had a “War on Drugs” for at least 40 years now and no one can possibly believe that drug usage and drug abuse has vanished from society. Gambling is in the same category; people are going to do it despite its “legality”. If you doubt that, you must also believe there are no local bookmakers in all of those state where local bookmaking is illegal. Wanna buy a bridge…?

Not surprisingly, there is big money behind this legislation and it comes from folks who have large financial interests in casino gambling. They are acting on enlightened self-interest and nothing more. Do not allow them to play the smoke-and-mirrors game with you by telling you that they are most interested in protecting the children from the evils of gambling which will necessarily be visited on them if you can do this over the Internet.

You can read about the proposed legislation here. I want you to note a rather large omission from the statements made by Rep Chaffetz and supporters regarding the proposed legislation.

They do not mention a ban on Internet participation in fantasy sports.

Just in case you wonder why they might not mention that and just in case you think it has not yet occurred to them, here is the reason:

    There are millions of sports fans who play fantasy sports and use the Internet as the vehicle for that activity. Fantasy sports is gambling. If politicians vote to ban fantasy football or fantasy baseball, they are going to suffer a backlash from a LARGE constituency. Hence, no mention of that here…

Finally, here is Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times putting two and two together…

“Q: What do the Seahawks and NBC anchor Brian Williams have in common?

“A: Both would’ve been better off staying on the ground.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………