How much do you want to bet that despite all of its legal posturing and talk about preserving the integrity of professional football, the power brokers of the NFL eagerly have been awaiting this day — and these whopping dollar signs zooming overhead — for years?
The NFL mostly has allowed the NBA and Major League Baseball to do the heavy lifting and dirty work in terms of haggling over the financial ramifications throughout the fight over legalized sports betting, which the U.S. Supreme Court essentially lifted at the state level on Monday.
But let’s be real here, no sport is more tied to and set to profit more from gambling pursuits or fantasy sports than the modern-day NFL.
As much as Roger Goodell rails about integrity, the league also rubber-stamped the Raiders’ pending move to Las Vegas, in the one state where sports books and massive betting already were operating legally.
Those detailed injury reports each week essentially are released to aid the betting public, and several league owners — including two of the most prominent, Jerry Jones and Robert Kraft — have invested heavily in daily fantasy companies.
These folks and/or their families didn’t get rich and stay rich by not understanding the power of the dollar. And as maverick Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban boasted Monday on CNBC, the owner of every pro team in the four major North American sports “just basically saw the value of their team double, at least.”
The NFL, like the other major sports leagues, made sure to issue a carefully worded statement Monday, saying it wants Congress to institute a “core regulatory framework” for sports gambling on the heels of the Supreme Court rendering.
“The NFL’s long-standing and unwavering commitment to protecting the integrity of our game remains absolute,” the NFL statement read. “Congress has long recognized the potential harms posed by sports betting to the integrity of sporting contests and the public confidence in these events.
“Given that history, we intend to call on Congress again, this time to enact a core regulatory framework for legalized sports betting. We also will work closely with our clubs to ensure that any state efforts that move forward in the meantime protect our fans and the integrity of our game.”
Look, even as someone who never has played fantasy sports nor ever placed a bet on a sporting event outside of the occasional office pool or Super Bowl box, it is impossible to not comprehend the massive implications here.
One year shy of the 100th anniversary of the Black Sox scandal, nearly 30 after all-time hit king Pete Rose was slapped with a lifetime ban for gambling on baseball, and slightly more than a decade since NBA referee Tim Donaghy was busted for participating in a gambling scandal, SCOTUS ruled 6-3 that a 25-year-old federal law prohibiting sports gambling at the state level was unconstitutional.
It’s the safest of wagers to suggest that sports — and how we consume them and wager on them — never will be the same.
Place your bets, indeed. Even from your phone, on specific plays, while the games are happening.
All of the major sports leagues have been preparing for this day — with, make no mistake, an eye on getting their own pieces of the action — even as they joined the NCAA in fighting this case at the lower judicial levels to protect the so-called integrity of their sports.
What did it tell you that even ahead of the Raiders move to Sin City, the NHL also already has placed a wildly successful expansion franchise in Vegas?
Or that NBA commissioner Adam Silver, as far back as 2014, voiced his support for legalizing sports gambling federally, and all of the leagues already had entered partnerships with fantasy sports companies/websites?
“Today’s decision by the Supreme Court opens the door for states to pass laws legalizing sports betting,” Silver said Monday. “We remain in favor of a federal framework that provides a uniform approach to sports gambling in states that choose to permit it, but we will remain active in ongoing discussions with state legislatures. Regardless of the particulars of any future sports betting law, the integrity of our game remains our highest priority.”
Sports betting, after all, is an estimated $150 billion business, and this ruling should open the floodgates for states to establish their own legalized sports books as a major source of governmental revenue.
Of course, the danger here for the leagues always has been wariness over even the slightest hints of impropriety — which is why the Black Sox, NFL stars Paul Hornung and Alex Karras (both suspended for gambling in 1963), Rose, Donaghy and various college point-shavers were penalized so swiftly and so harshly.
New Jersey residents had voted by roughly a 2-to-1 margin in support of a referendum to legalize sports betting in 2011, and then-Governor Chris Christie signed a law allowing gambling at the state’s racetracks and casinos. The lengthy legal battle finally reached the Supreme Court last year, with Christie’s replacement, Phil Murphy, inheriting the petition.
Monday’s ruling opens the door for the Garden State and others to move forward immediately, and it has been reported that Monmouth Park Racetrack could be ready to start accepting sports wagers before the end of this month.
Pennsylvania, Mississippi and West Virginia also recently passed laws that would allow sports betting, contingent on SCOTUS invalidating PASPA,. And you can be sure New York and dozens of others will follow.
The NFL and its owners, more than the other sports, are set to cha-ching their way to millions upon millions in additional revenue. Just in case you truly believed they were dead-set against this sort of thing from the beginning, all in the name of integrity.
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