Bet On It

In 1991, Michigan became the first state in the nation to pass legislation to prohibit a state-sponsored lottery from including games based on the results of sporting events. A bill introduced by Representative Keith Muxlow of Brown City passed both the Michigan House and Senate without a dissenting vote and was signed by Governor Engler Dec. 18, 1991.

The effort was assisted by the Michigan Coalition to Ban Legalized Sports Betting, a broad-based group of athletic, educational, religious and civic organizations which then turned its attention to helping pass federal legislation needed to fully protect Michigan’s professional and amateur sporting events from the influences of gambling in other states.

The federal legislation that resulted, on the books for 25 years, was ruled unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court on May 14, 2018.

There are currently eight bills pending in the Michigan Legislature that would expand gambling in the state of Michigan, including several that would legalize sports betting or fantasy sports wagering and allow the Michigan Lottery to handle those bets.

It is impossible to know all the consequences – positive and negative – of expanding legalized gambling in our society generally and on sports particularly. However, we can imagine that as every decision and action of players, coaches and officials influences statistics and determines winners and losers of both contests and wagers, fans will become increasingly cynical of individual and team performances where sports betting is allowed.

And, more than ever, school-based sports will stand apart from the charade or corruption of sports on all other levels by all other sponsors. You can bet on it.

Posted in: Perspective


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About the Author

Jack Roberts

Jack Roberts has been at the helm of the MHSAA as its Executive Director since 1986, implementing programs and overseeing tournament administration and regulations for the Association which boasts 1,500 member schools, 10,000 registered officials and 13,000 head coaches.

During the last 45 years, Roberts has spoken to educator and athletic groups, business leaders and civic groups in almost every state and five Canadian provinces. He is one of the nation's most articulate advocates for educational athletics.

Roberts has served on the board of directors of the National Association of Sports Officials (NASO), is in his second term on the board of the National Federation of State High School Associations, and is the first chairman of the NFHS Network board of directors. He has been board president for the Refugee Development Center for nine years, and is a past-chair of the board of directors of the Michigan Society of Association Executives. He is chair of the board of trustees for the Capital Region Community Foundation for 2018.

He is a 1970 graduate of Dartmouth College, where he played defensive safety for the Ivy League's winningest football team during that span, and he sang in Dartmouth's close harmony vocal group.

His wife, Peggy, has retired from a 30-year career in social services, and is serving as president of the board of the Fenner Nature Conservancy in Lansing.