At this time only four of the 50 United States allow betting on football, basketball, baseball and other games. Nevada, Delaware, Oregon and Montana are the exceptions to the federal ban on sports betting because they approved the practice before the ban became effective in 1992.
Now, however, other states such as New Jersey, Iowa and California would like a piece of the action and see sports betting as a way to raise badly needed cash and at the same time bring that type of gambling out of the underworld, where it currently thrives.
Casinos and racetracks
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie actually signed legislation allowing sports bets at beleaguered Garden State casinos and racetracks, but a federal judge put a stop to it at the behest of the major professional sports leagues and college athletic authorities.
They oppose sports gambling, they say, because it would compromise the integrity of their sports. If that were to happen, it would be nothing new. Corruption and dirty dealing in American sports goes at least as far back as the Black Sox scandal, which tainted the 1919 World Series.
That clash between the Chicago White Sox and the Cincinnati Reds was supposedly fixed by criminal mastermind Arnold Rothstein, also known as Mr. Big, The Brain and The Fixer. He is believed to have bribed several of the White Sox players to throw the Series to the Cincinnati team.
Many accounts say that Rothstein, a mentor to Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky, financed the betting scandal through former professional boxing champion Abe Attell, although no firm evidence supports this.
Big bet on the Reds
It is known that Rothstein was approached for financial backing, but some historians believe he declined to participate because it was a sure thing that would go through without his investment. Rothstein did, however, bet $60,000 on Cincinnati and won $270,000. Organized crime experts say that version sounds like the real Rothstein.
The underworld king was obsessed with gambling and bet compulsively. In a legendary two-day poker game in 1928, Rothstein dropped $320,000. He refused to pay his debt and declared the game was fixed.
A few weeks later, Rothstein was murdered at the Park Central Hotel in New York City. The case was never solved.