Gambling & Sports: Can a lottery save Alabama baseball? Is point shaving at Auburn a sign of gambling’s influence on the culture?

When Alabama Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban says something, people listen.

If anyone knows how to build a program and run an athletic department, then it must be the Alabama football coach. Saban has three BCS National Championships (one at LSU, two at Alabama). He is at the pinnacle of college football today.

With Alabama’s baseball program sporting an ugly 8-9 record heading into SEC play, there are many Alabama fans who are quick to point to what Nick Saban said would help Tide baseball.

Way back in 2007, Saban said this about a lottery: “There are other schools in states—including the one where I came from—that have advantages. If you have state scholarships for guys who qualify, it helps you recruit those kinds of guys. It would help all sports, (especially) baseball and track.” (Source: Alabama Policy Institute & Birmingham News).

Saban’s plea was ignored. As we said back in 2007, Alabama voters do not trust the government’s administration of a lottery. And while Alabama fans want to win, most fans would not sacrifice their moral stance on gambling for the sake of winning—even if it helped the football program.

However, there are many baseball fans who rightly point out that states with lotteries seem to have a higher degree of success in baseball today compared to Alabama and Auburn.

So, is a lottery the best way to help Alabama baseball? What do you the fans think? Is Saban’s analysis of the situation correct? Is a lottery is politically possible in this state, or could there be another option?

And is gambling even more unlikely in this state with the fallout of the Auburn basketball player point-shaving shock?

The Yahoo Sports bombshell story that the FBI was leading a point-shaving probe of an Auburn basketball player brought yet another black cloud do the Plains. Even when you handle this type of situation the right way as Auburn has, bad news underscores a public perception of Auburn as a scofflaw program. Such is life for a program that linked itself to Cam Newton. (Yahoo Report: Auburn’s Varez Ward at center of federal point-shaving probe)

It looks to be nothing more than bad PR for Auburn, and while bad it will pass.

Sure, it won’t help Auburn’s “family” recruiting line since family and gambling have a few other, less wholesome connotations, but if that is the worst of things then this scandal will cast less of a shadow than the Cam Newton fiasco.

This gambling probe highlights the vast reach of gambling in general and sports gambling in particular. Would Alabama voters want to increase the reach of gambling interests in this state? Already, illegal sports gambling is a massive industry here.

According to al.com, “In 2010, Nevada sports books accepted $2.76 billion in bets, according to the American Gaming Association. The FBI estimates that sum is illegally wagered on March Madness alone, while the full total of illegal U.S. sports gambling is in the hundreds of billions.” (Source).

Listen to local radio programs and you’ll hear regular discussions about the point spread and value picks. There is no doubt, gambling is big in Alabama.

There are social costs associated with gambling. Southern Seminary President Albert Mohler called the growth of public gambling the “most underrated dimension of America’s moral crisis.” (Source).

One of the biggest objections to state-sponsored gambling is the danger to children. The Alabama Policy Institute cited a Louisiana State University Medical Center in Shreveport Department of Psychiatry study that 16.5 percent of the grade 6-12 population was involved in “weekly or more frequent lottery play.”

Would a lottery or other public gambling exacerbate this type of problem in Alabama? Would state-sponsored gambling lead to more illegal sports gambling in the state?

Already, there is a problem of sports gambling among college players. Jon Solomon of al.com noted that “A 2008 NCAA survey of more than 19,000 athletes found that nearly 30 percent of all male athletes admitted betting at least once in a year’s time on college or pro sports.”

With so many negatives and so many voters opposed to a lottery, is there any other way to fix Alabama baseball? Share your thoughts.