A DISCUSSION OF LAW AND JOURNALISM

Tag: Sky Masterson

Wanna’ Bet?

By Jennifer Williams

A bet was made. A game was watched. Money exchanged hands.

This didn’t take place in a seedy underground location amid whispers and slips of paper discretely changing hands. No, I’m talking about a bet I made recently from the couch in my living room. I was betting that the U.S. would beat Mexico in an impending fútbol match and I was making my bet loudly, sure and proud that I would emerge victorious.  My husband, by the way, is from Mexico, and he was backing his bet with as much fervor and pride as I did (which means a tied match was the best possible outcome in the Williams-Alvarez household).

I never thought twice about the laws that might punish me for such a gamble. That is until The New York Times introduced me to Nelson Urena. Arrested on March 13, Mr. Urena had 38 slips of paper in his jacket, $1,024 in his back pocket, and was charged with promoting gambling.

From a basement apartment on East 115th Street, Mr. Urena engaged in “playing the numbers”, an illegal form of gambling involving hundreds of little sheets of paper, numbers jotted on chalkboards, and a runner who goes around to take bets from others.

As of 2008, one in six Americans reportedly gambled on sports. It’s easy to see why.  Even a long and scoreless Mets game can be made exciting if you’ve got a bet on it.

And surely the bet I made was different than Mr. Urena’s, right? No runner. No jotting down. No basement.

But was my wager on the outcome of a soccer game against the law? What about Super Bowl bets, NBA gambling, or bets on the Oscars? LASIS investigates.

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