8 months ago

Should Alabama bet on sports betting?

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last May that states could legalize sports betting. New Jersey, Delaware, West Virginia and Mississippi have joined Nevada in offering legal sports betting, and about twenty other states have taken steps toward legalization.

Should Alabama join this crowd?

The size of the sports betting market is one argument in the affirmative. We lack accurate statistics on the current largely illegal U.S. sports betting market. A 1999 Congressional study estimated that Americans bet between $80 and $380 billion annually, while pro and college football betting has recently been estimated at $100 billion. A study by Oxford Economics for the American Gaming Association estimated that nationwide legalization and mobile betting could result in a $300 billion a year market.

Most of the bets are paid out to the winning gamblers, but bookmakers keep some for expenses and profits. Legalization brings this gaming revenue out of the black market or back from offshore casinos to support jobs in states legalizing betting. Oxford Economics projects that nationwide legalization could create 90,000 jobs and annual tax revenue of $8 billion, through taxes on gambling and taxes paid by now legal employees.

Without legalization, Alabama will not share in these jobs and tax revenues. Alabama sports bettors’ money will support businesses and government services in other states.

While jobs and tax revenue are nice, prosperity ultimately involves providing goods, services, and activities people want. Jobs from value-creating businesses – those providing the most desired goods and services – create economically thriving communities. Alabama will miss out on a value-creating industry by not legalizing sports betting.

But does sports betting truly generate value? A skeptic could point out that gambling is a zero-sum game (the losses cancel out wins) and creates no products. Yet millions of people value having action on games and get satisfaction from their winning bets. People willingly place bets they know they might lose. Economists call such satisfaction utility. All economic activity beyond sustenance and survival is about generating utility by providing people with things they want.

Why do people enjoy betting? Economists leave such questions to psychologists. The exclusively voluntary nature of market activities excludes predatory activities from value creation. Everyone must either want to participate (place bets) or be compensated to participate – say cleaning up the sportsbook at night. Sports betting passes the voluntary participation test.

Sports betting’s biggest negative is the problem gamblers who lose more than they can afford, resulting in bankruptcy and often devastating their families. This is most unfortunate, but are problem gamblers better off with prohibition? People have long been able to bet illegally, with online betting only making access easier. Prohibition, however, makes problem gambler’s difficulties worse. Legal sportsbooks will not break legs to collect debts; indeed, it will not be profitable to let gamblers make bets they cannot pay off. Regulations on legal betting can help protect problem gamblers from themselves and ensure help is available when wanted.

The increased betting volume from legalization increases the risk of gamblers paying players to fix games. This is a real threat: the “Black Sox” scandal nearly ruined Major League Baseball, and college players who will never play professionally might find gamblers’ dollars very tempting. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver proposed that an integrity fee on all bets, with leagues using the proceeds to guard against illicit deals.

Sportsbooks, though, already have a strong incentive to protect the integrity of games. A $300 billion a year betting market will generate significant profits for years to come provided the public does not view the contests as rigged. Sportsbooks also will not want to pay off rigged bets. Suspicious betting patterns and statistical analysis can help identify rigged contests. Scandals will undoubtedly occur, but cooperation between sportsbooks, the leagues and law enforcement should keep the contests legitimate.

Jobs, taxes and losing both to neighboring states are all worthwhile considerations. But I think that the most compelling argument is the freedom to engage legally in an activity many Alabamians value. Despite the benefits, I wouldn’t bet on Alabama legalizing sports betting anytime soon.

Daniel Sutter is the Charles G. Koch Professor of Economics with the Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy at Troy University.

18 mins ago

‘The American Taliban’ released early from federal prison over objections of Alabama officials, Spann family

John Walker Lindh, a.k.a. “The American Taliban,” on Thursday was released years early from federal prison, despite the objections of Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), President Donald Trump, the entirety of the Alabama legislature and the family of Johnny Micheal “Mike” Spann, who was an Alabamian and the first American known to be killed in “The War on Terror” in Afghanistan after 9/11.

After being captured in Afghanistan in 2001, Lindh pled guilty to serving as a soldier of the Taliban. He was sentenced to 20 years in a federal penitentiary in 2002 for his role in the death of Spann, a Winfield native and Auburn University alumnus then serving as a CIA officer.

Lindh was released prematurely from federal custody in Indiana on Thursday. As of a 2017 Foreign Policy article, Lindh still intended to spread terrorist ideology upon his release from prison.

CNN has reported that Lindh will live in Virginia under set restrictions.

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Alison Spann, the late Alabamian’s daughter, recently wrote a letter to the president calling Lindh’s early release “a slap in the face — not only to my father and my family but, but for every person killed on Sept. 11th, their families, the U.S. military, U.S. [intelligence] services, families who have lost loved ones to this war and the millions of Muslims worldwide who don’t support radical extremists.”

In an interview with Fox News, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned Lindh’s early release as “unexplainable and unconscionable” and followed Shelby in calling for a review of prison system policies.

Restrictions placed on Lindh, according to the Associated Press, include that “Lindh’s internet devices must have monitoring software; his online communications must be conducted in English; he must undergo mental health counseling; he is forbidden to possess or view extremist material; and he cannot hold a passport or leave the U.S.”

His release came only a day after NBC reported that Lindh, in a letter to a producer from Los Angeles-based affiliate KNBC, wrote in 2015 that the Islamic State group is “doing a spectacular job” and “is clearly very sincere and serious about fulfilling the long-neglected religious obligation to establish a caliphate through armed struggle.”

Yellowhammer News on Wednesday learned that Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01) imminently will file legislation to ensure convicted terrorists like Lindh are never released early from federal custody in the future.

On Lindh, Byrne has tweeted, “This man was held responsible for the horrific death of an Alabama CIA officer, and now he is getting out of jail early for good behavior. This is just so wrong!”

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

59 mins ago

Huntsville Hospital lets children drive toy cars into surgery, goes beyond medical care

Huntsville Hospital is helping kids with much more than their medical needs.

WHNT on Wednesday reported, “Hospitals can be a scary place for anyone, but especially for kids. Huntsville Hospital has child life specialists whose sole job is to help the children there beyond their medical needs. Making a trip to the hospital, not only bearable but even fun.”

One of the favorite features for young patients at Huntsville Hospital is that children are allowed to drive toy cars right into surgery.

Additionally, the hospital waiting room has become more like a game room, with interactive games projected onto the floor for kids to play with while waiting.

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“So this is kind of one of those things that keeps their mind off everything before they have to go back,” Haley Franks, a pediatric ER registered nurse, told WHNT. “Especially if they have any kind of procedures or anything they are able to kind of play out here in the lobby and have some fun while they’re waiting.”

This incredible child life department has been in Huntsville Hospital for over two decades.

“There are some kids that are excited to be here. There are some kids that are really really scared and don’t even want to come in the door, stand on the scale, put on a bracelet,” Michelle Barksdale, a child life specialist, said. “We have all developmental ages and ranges of emotions.”

Specialists like Barksdale are trained in child psychology and development to know how to meet the needs of every individual child.

She said the needs of kids are very different than adults. She said a lot of kids are concrete thinkers they need to see what the surgery room will look like, not just be told.

Barksdale explained that the famous toy car rides even come complete with a unique driver’s license for each child.

“That car is a transition piece from parents who they know, where they’re safe, to people who they don’t know in scrubs,” she added.

For the pediatric staff at Huntsville Hospital, this is a labor of love for those kids. Not only are they working to heal them, the staff truly cares about making kids feel better, too.

“It makes it easier on that transition for the parent as well as the child. Because they know the child is not scared, they’re not crying, they’re not leaving them in a fearful state,” Amanda Rochowiak, a pre-op coordinator, said.

Watch below or here:

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 hours ago

Watch: Mobile’s WKRG anchor Mel Showers signs off for the last time after 50-year run

On Wednesday, long-time Mobile television personality Mel Showers anchored his newscast after a 50-year tenure at WKRG, the market’s CBS affiliate.

Back in March, Showers marked his 50th anniversary with WKRG.

Showers was joined by his family as he signed off Wednesday’s 10 p.m. newscast.

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“Well, I would like to take just a few moments of your time tonight to say thank you,” Showers said. “I want to thank you for allowing me into your homes for the past five decades — first as a booth announcer, where you heard my voice more than you saw my face, then as a reporter and now as a news anchor. I was honored earlier today by the management and staff of Nexstar in a luncheon. Later today, my son and grandsons flew in from Dallas, Texas. It was a big surprise, and tonight, I want you all to see my family gathered here. I have sisters. I have nephews. I have nieces. I have granddaughters. I have their friends. And I have my WKRG family as well, as you can see them.”

“So, there’s a lot of love here involved in this studio,” he added. “And I want to thank you for tolerating me all these many years. Along with thanking you, I want to thank my family and my friends and my WKRG family, of course, many of whom are here tonight as you see. I will miss you. I love you and may God continue to bless all of you, every one of you. Look at that beautiful family.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.

Episode 7: Surviving and thriving with photos and Frosties

Marshall and I share about a plane crash we survived; the characteristics that did or did not draw us to each other; our crazy engagement story; how important it is to communicate – always; how phases are not forever, but marriage is; and how sitting down to stare at your early relationship photos can save your marriage.

>Challenge today: Why did you fall in love in the first place? Have some fun together reminiscing about the great moments in your relationship and never stop learning about the wonderful parts of your partner!

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3 hours ago

State Sen. Chris Elliott: ALDOT Mobile I-10 Bridge $6 toll proposal ‘politically unfeasible,’ Project scope could be reduced

Wednesday during an appearance on Mobile radio’s FM Talk 106.5’s “Mobile Mornings,” State Sen. Chris Elliott (R-Daphne) said there could be changes ahead to the Alabama Department of Transportation’s proposal for a new I-10 Mobile Bayway Bridge, which as of now has toll that could be as high as $6 each way for vehicles.

Elliott said unless money came from other sources, be it the state or federal government, considerations to narrow the scope of the project could be underway.

He called the current ALDOT “politically unfeasible” and said the target for the toll is in the $2 range.

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“I think they are hearing the rancor from the proposal from the State Department of Transportation garnered and understand that the current proposal – that six-plus-dollar toll each way is just completely politically unfeasible. And they get that. And through my conversations with them, I think they have taken a step back. They are getting actively involved in what heretofore was a process being almost exclusively led by ALDOT, and saying, ‘OK, look guys – this isn’t going to work. We’re going to have to come up with another solution, and that’s where we are right now.”

Elliott offered a couple of options, one of which was increasing the public subsidy for the toll “significantly,” which would be in the amount of “hundreds of millions,” which he said would be gas tax revenue that would be bonded out into the future.

“The other, and I think perfectly valid way to look at it is, look at project scope – what parts can we simply afford and what parts can we just do without?” Elliott said. “Do we need to look at not doing the Bayway portion? Do we need to look at augmenting the Causeway and just doing the bridge? What parts do we need to do and what parts do we not need to do?”

“Then the other is continuing to work with our federal partners to see what, if any, help is there,” he added. “Mayor [Sandy] Stimpson and I have been in conversation about that recently. You know, we got this infrastructure grant that’s pending right now. There’s talk of an infrastructure bill in Washington.”

The Baldwin County Republican explained how the federal portion was only 7%, assuming the feds came through with the entire requested grant, which is not guaranteed he said. He said two of the distinct options were not building anything at all or accepting the entire proposed, neither which he said were options.

“I’m for trying to get something done that is palatable and reasonable,” Elliott said. “And I think the governor’s office, from what I’m hearing in our discussions with them, they’re up for that as well. It’s time to take a step back and say, ‘Look ALDOT, the proposal you have on the table is completely unreasonable. And we need to rein it in and figure out what can we do and what can we afford.”

Elliott said he expected the “tolerable number” for a toll would be in the “$2 range.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.