Abbott refuses to take gamble

By David Mullen

The biggest sports news this week involves courses and courts. The courses, of course, relate to golf news coming from last week’s Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass and the AT&T Byron Nelson Open, which continues through Sunday, May 20.

The reports from the courts are not necessarily from the NBA, where LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers are facing the underrated Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals and James Harden and the Houston Rockets are trying to keep up with the World Champion Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals.

It was from the U.S. Supreme Court.

On May 14, the Supreme Court overturned a 1992 federal law, called the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which banned sports betting in all states but Nevada. States will now be allowed to decide if they want to get into the sports betting game and get a crack at the estimated $150 billion in illegal wagers made on professional and amateur sports annually.

In the majority (6-3) opinion, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote: “It is as if federal officers were installed in state legislative chambers and were armed with the authority to stop legislators from voting on any offending proposals. A more direct affront to state sovereignty is not easy to imagine.” Essentially, the court said the gambling statute was unconstitutional.

With sports betting now legal, more people are bound to wager and many states will gain a much needed revenue source. Some of the 32 states expected to authorize sports gaming could be up and running with sports betting parlors in as few as two months.

In a state known for archaic laws, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has already said that he will oppose statewide sports gaming. Attorney General Ken Paxton, despite supporting the overturning of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, apparently feels the same way as the governor.

The irony of this, and what the hierarchy in Texas politics doesn’t seem to be considering, is that legal sports betting in Texas could save the struggling horse racing industry. A sports betting parlor at Lone Star Park would attract more customers, create more betting on horse racing, increase handles and bring much better horses to the track.     

The major sports leagues are also opposed to the ruling. Yet, the NHL put a hockey team in Las Vegas. The NFL has approved the move of the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas beginning in 2020. And both the NFL and Major League Baseball have invested in fantasy sports league online betting sites like DraftKings. The leagues fear that the integrity of sports would be challenged. But teams in Las Vegas are OK?

There is at least one gamble on the local sports scene, and that is moving the Byron Nelson to the newly created Trinity Forest Golf Club in South Dallas. Coming on the wake of an exhilarating Players Championship, golf is at the forefront. Webb Simpson, despite a magnificent four-day performance at TPC Sawgrass, had to hold off a number of opponents who all seemed to be waiting for Simpson to implode.

Fans saw flashes of the old Tiger Woods, who had a brilliant front nine on Sunday, only to lose his swagger on the back nine. It was great TV. Simpson won more than $1.9 million. Woods, who at one time on Sunday was tied for second four strokes back, finished tied for fifth and earned $225,500, or about the same as the cost of Meghan Markle’s wedding dress.

The gamble at Trinity Forest may not be whether the players like the course, but whether the tournament can capture the magic of the Byron Nelson at the TPC Four Seasons Course at Las Colinas for the fans. Annually, it was one of the area’s and PGA Tour’s biggest parties. The course was perfect to accommodate a throng of golf and non-golf followers alike, was extremely fan-friendly and access to the course was great.

As a links course, Trinity Forest has no trees, i.e. no shade to protect patrons. Officials have said that they will have plenty of coverage and misting tents on the course to alleviate heat issues. We shall see.

Also, the location will be a challenge. People simply don’t go down to Southeast Dallas, and will have to park at Fair Park and be bused to the course. After the tournament, there is nowhere to go. Last time I checked, Pleasant Grove doesn’t have a Cool River.        

So as gambling makes big news this week, officials at the AT&T Byron Nelson Open are laying odds that their great experiment at Trinity Forest will pay off.

If only fans could bet on Jordan Spieth to win next year’s Byron Nelson. Many will be able to, just not in Texas.

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