As more states legalize sports betting, government officials are faced with the question of where that revenue should go. Such oft-cited options include road repairs and pension funds, but now youth sports has entered the conversation.
“We are seeing a dramatic increase in the ‘access gap’ around household income and those who are active, particularly at the youth level,” Tom Cove, director of the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, recently said during a panel discussion titled“The Future of Sports Betting: Reimaging Its Public Value,” sponsored by The Aspen Institute Sports and Society Program and held in Washington, D.C. “There is a logical and moral relationship between sports betting and youth sports.”
Using sports betting revenue to allow more kids greater access to youth sports by providing more affordable options isn’t a bad idea, agrees USBets.com, a popular website covering legal gambling in the United States.
“Norway and China already funnel their sports betting and lottery revenues, respectively, back in that way,” the site reports. “Colorado, meanwhile, uses its lottery revenue in a unique way: 50 percent goes to the Great Outdoors Colorado Trust Fund, 40 percent to the Conservation Trust Fund and 10 percent to Colorado Parks and Wildlife. So states may want to think about their own priorities for newfound sports betting funds.”
Cove’s best (ahem) bet, according to longtime sports business and gaming reporter John Brennan, might be to “find one state that is in his corner, then promote that approach to subsequent states.”
Proceeds from sports betting “are expected to be such a pittance, they're not going to have so much of an impact anywhere else,” writes youth sports blogger Bob Cook on Forbes.com, advocating for youth sports to reap the revenues. According to The State Journal of Clarksburg, West Virginia, betting in that state is expected to “bring in about $5 million in the first year of implementation, about $13.4 million by the third year and about $28.7 million by the fifth year as betting becomes established.”
Indeed, “counting on revenues from lottery proceeds to fund infrastructure is immature and not a sound policy decision,” Lucy Dadayan, a senior research associate at the Urban Institute, a progressive think tank in Washington, D.C., told The Pew Charitable Trust’s Stateline website.
That’s why youth sports are in the conversation — and could remain there for quite awhile. Small changes could make big differences.
“Sports gambling revenue certainly wouldn't be enough to bridge the gap between rich and poor in youth sports, but $5 million out of the state budget could make some impact,” Cook writes. “It could be used to cover pay-to-play costs in school sports, or for facilities improvements, or to underwrite parks and recreation departments so they could offer more programs or reduce the fees for them. The money is a small percentage of what is needed and necessary, but it certainly is going to go a lot further than $5 million spent on roads.”