Bookie Confidential: Locals React to the Legalization of Sports Gambling


Cincinnati Reds legend Pete Rose. David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Look, we all know a guy. In fact, some of you reading this may be the guy. And while everybody else was celebrating the impending legalization of sports betting in the United States, we hope you at least paused for a moment and thought about your guy. Life is going to be different for him (or her) pretty soon.

I remember talking to my neighborhood pot dealer when Colorado legalized it a few years back. I joked with him saying I would never forsake his bud to put money in Uncle Sam’s pocket. He laughed and said, “That’s because I hook it up. But if they came into town tomorrow, there’s no way I’d be able to keep up. They’re going to be selling gummy worms, man.”


That is how I envision this happening. Your guy will always have a place in town, especially for those looking to bet on credit, but as this thing becomes more widespread and gambling giants such as Paddy Power and William Hill open up apps, shops and kiosks all over the damn place, your guy just won’t have the ability to keep up. Mom and Pop shops aren’t limited to bakeries and delis.

So pour one out for everyone’s guy.

We spoke to a few local bookies around the country to get their take on what this brave new world will mean for them. We’d like to share a few of the best quotes.

“At first I didn’t think anything of it,” said a Long Island local. “But then I started to give it a think and began to dwell on something in particular. I think the crackdown will be a lot tougher when this all goes above board. Right now, you don’t hear much about bookies getting in trouble with the law because it doesn’t directly lighten Uncle Sam’s pockets. I guess it was, but in a different way. Now it’s more tangible. It’s that whole ‘render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s,’ thing. I’ll probably stop taking bets as soon as this all gets done here.”

“I had a good run,” said a New York account man. “Luckily, this was just a side hustle and honestly, it could be fun to jump to the other side of the window.”

“About all I’d be able to say is I hate it, but what can I do?” said a bookie from Philadelphia who spoke to us. “This is D-day for my industry, but we all knew it was coming.”

Another bookie, also from Pennsylvania, had a more positive (err, sort of) outlook.

“The worst bettors are obviously my best clients. They are the type of people that are constantly scrambling for cash and chasing. That can make collecting annoying at times, but it also means they will always need an outlet to bet on credit.”

And our favorite quote came from a local in New York. He wryly said, “No sweat off my back. I’m moving to Utah (a state unlikely to legalize sports betting). I look good in red anyway.” We have already nicknamed the 40-something-year-old Italian ‘The Salt Lake Soprano’ and decided this needs to happen. It would most certainly serve as a viable opportunity for The Action Network to break into the reality television craze. I’d certainly watch this old-school Italian run shop in Salt Lake City. Wouldn’t you?

Michael J. Leboff also contributed to this story.

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