If anyone has been watching sporting events on your video imaging device, you have been aware of how easy it is to place a bet on sporting events. Thanks to lax laws on sports book-type wagers, the accepted notion (in general) to call a bet or two (or three-maybe more) on sporting events, as well as how it’s a whole lot easier to place a bet on a game through online sources and the outlets that allow such wagering, sports betting seems to be the new(er) sport in town. (Pun?)

With companies such as BetMGM (connected with the MGM casinos), FanDuel, Fox Bet (connected with Fox Sports) DraftKings, that at one time concentrated on fantasy football and related fantasy sports matchups, and a host of other outlets, betting a wager on a game or its related outcomes has grown over the past few seasons. And with an app provided by the outlets in question, one can whip out their smartphone, place a bet on the game of choosing, and hope for the best. One doesn’t even have to keep tabs on the game itself. The outlets will let you know how lucky (or not) you became thanks to their high tech notions of tabbing your winnings and/or your losses.

Once upon a time, long before this “hobby” of placing a friendly bet on a game became this easy, betting on a game, no matter what the game was, was available but not necessarily easy or even legal! Sports books have been available in many of the casinos in Las Vegas where many of these same casinos had sport bet parlors that were placed in very large rooms or spaces within their casino floors consisting of rows of tables resembling a very long bar with bar-type stools set from behind. The bars faced a wall were dozens of big screen TV screens showing games on whatever sporting match was being televised. On the side of these screens were monitors that resembled spreadsheets giving the stats of all these games and others that may be played somewhere else.

And there was horse racing, perhaps the only source available to many on planning a bet on a game. In this case, the racing of thoroughbred horses. This type of betting was portrayed in many movies during Hollywood’s golden era, especially if it was based on a Damon Runyon story. Sheldon Leonard would be a classic example of those involved in horse betting movie scene as he would play a character known as a “tout”–somebody who knew that a specific horse would be an ideal bet to win, place, or show. Bob Hope played another comic foil in many of the movies he appeared in as released through Paramount Pictures in the 1940’s and 50’s. And there was the stage musical Guys and Dolls whose opening number featured Nicely-Nicely singing the praises that he had the horse right here his name is Paul Revere.

But horse racing lost its luster as the 21st century came rolling in. Horse racing tracks closed down. Some of its tracks were being renovated into something else from shopping and dwelling spaces to mega sized sporting complexes. Hollywood Park, once located in Inglewood, California (not “Hollywood”) was knocked down to have SoFi Stadium set in its place. Arlington Park, located in the bedroom suburban community of Arlington Heights, Illinois wants the Chicago Bears to relocate from where they are placing at Solders Field near downtown to move to their new spot. If that ever occurs, that won’t be for quite a while since the track has yet to be torn down with its new stadium complex set in place!

But betting on a game is just as old as betting itself. It was of course, never out in the open as placing wagers on a game wasn’t legal in just about everywhere where betting on anything resembling betting was ever allowed. For many years in some company offices, there was the “office pool” where an employee or two would circulate a sheet of the odds of a match about to take place in the near future. This “sport” was usually placed by the men in the office as this office pool was part of the “old boys club” that many offices held. This type of betting was usually done year round,. During the football season, it went full tilt since football games were usually played on a single day–Sunday. There was the Monday night game, but it was close enough to be latched onto the Sunday afternoon match ups.

For those that were not fortunate enough to work in an office that had an active office pool, there was the off-sight bookie that did the same thing–release stat sheet to those that subscribed to the bookie’s tote sheets, and then to have the bookie take wagers usually over the phone. From there, the bookie would tabulate the wagers, only to release the results that Monday morning. (Tuesday morning for the Monday night games!)

When I was getting myself started to live a so-called “adult” life, I lived in a large multi roomed house in south Minneapolis with three other roommates as well as the guy that owned the home–my landlord so to speak. One of these roommates was a gambler. He used outside bookies that took his wagers when the desire called for it. During the football season from September up to the bowl games in January, he placed bets of both college games played on Saturdays and the NFL games played on Sunday/Monday night. What he would do is to get his stat sheet of point spreads for the games placed the upcoming weekend. (Where he got his stat sheet was unknown to me!) On late Friday afternoons, he could place a call to his bookie by leaving his name and phone number on the bookie’s answering machine. Within fifteen minutes, the bookie would call back. Then this guy would read off the wagers he placed on the games he picked, usually giving point spreads on each matchup along with other stats connected to the games. After reading off the stats, he would hang up the phone without saying anything else to the bookie, not even a token “goodbye”! I knew all of this because there was only one phone line coming into the house. There was an unwritten rule that on Friday afternoons between 5:00 and 6:30 PM, nobody was to use the phone! He said that when he would call and leave his name and number on the answering machine and the bookie would try to call back and there was a busy signal, the bookie would never call back. If that ever happened, the better (the roommate) would lose out on participating in the bets of the week. (This happened a few times, usually unintentionally by the person using the house phone!) I can’t say how lucky this roommate was since he never told me about his winnings and I never asked. But it was worth his time to go through this ploy for the two seasons that he and I lived within this household located just walking distance from the shores of Lake Nokonis.

When I worked at Group W Cable in suburban Columbia Heights, there was an active office pool that floated around the place. Although I did get access to a stat sheet on occasion, I never participated in any other betting games since I didn’t know how it all worked out. One person I knew, a video engineer, told me that from all of the bet he placed, it was enough to pay off his union dues to the IBEW. (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers as the union was called at the time.) He was also into something called “Fantasy Football” where he placed talented players into teams that may have existed or not. This was rather odd to me as I thought Fantasy Football would consist of make believe games that played inside of one’s head! Perhaps that was what one did when one wasn’t near a TV set on a Sunday, or what one had to do when the NFL players went on strike during the middle of the 1982-83 season. But I digress!

But thanks to these lax betting laws as well as what the ‘net can do and with the devices connected to the World Wide Web, betting on a game is just a tap or swipe away. No calling bookies on their answering machine to take bets, and no office pools to dive into. (Pun intended!!) It’s now to just pick a team, play out a wager, and hope for the best. And best of all, it’s not just limited to football as the four major leagues are participants as well as any other team or league that is worth betting on! Some leagues such as pee-wee football, little leagues, and AYSO teams are not included. Ditto for high school sports as well as the college level leagues such as the NCAA. Those players within most of those teams and leagues are under the age to legally gamble. Besides, that may lead into “fixing” games. There could be a parent or caretaker that may have a kid in such a league that may hold access to anything on the “inside”. Besides, why waste their time and effort on betting on a team or league whose interest and media coverage is limited to a local community and/or online presence that’s only seen (and cared for) on all of the social media platforms used by domestic middle class post-modern society.

On a side note, unless Proposition 27 that legalizes online betting within the state of California passes in the upcoming midterm election this November, folks within the Golden State won’t be able to place their bets online, or at least not legally. Then again, if there is a will, there is a way. Leave it to those that can hack the system. And they will! We can bet on that! (Another pun intended!)

Again, this writer won’t encourage those to wager on sports or not. That is their decision if they wish to participate or not. This writer doesn’t play since I have little to no knowledge in placing a bet that would hold any big(er) payout. I don’t necessarily watch sports as a whole either. The last game I did see was the Super Bowl played in early February. Of course, it was at somebody’s home and the real star of the televised match was the TV commercials (some great, some amusing, and the rest that were what they were), as well as the halftime “concert”. (It wasn’t catered toward my demographic!) Maybe one day, I’ll head off the racetrack to plunk down two dollars on Fast Philly to place in the sixth race. And as I ramble up to the wage cage window, a mysterious tout leaning against a post will say “Psst..Hey Bud..C’mere”. I’ll respond by saying to the tout “Who Me?” The tout will reply “Yeah you! What ‘cha betting on?” Me: “I’m betting two dollars on Fast Philly to place in the sixth!” Tout: “Eh-eh!”

I guess you just has to be there to get the humor behind this encounter. Better luck next time I suppose…!

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