Goodell Comments Not Good Enough for Sports Gamblers

Posted on April 9, 2021

We see the new attitude. But what about gratitude? Welcome to the sports betting double standard.

Roger Goodell, March 28, 2017: “I think we still strongly oppose legalized sports gambling. The integrity of our game is No. 1. We will not compromise on that.”

Roger Goodell, March 18, 2021: “We’re going to find ways we can engage fans through legalized sports betting.”

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s comments about the league finding ways to engage fans through legalized sports betting was, to many in the wagering world, polarizing.

Sentiment breaks into two camps. Some consider the Goodell comments as his stamp of a new age, as leagues embrace bettors they can’t live without.

Others view it as salt being rubbed in an old wound.

Goodell Comments – Money Talks

For roughly 25 years, sports leagues fought to prevent this multi-billion-dollar industry, which creates numerous jobs and fills holes in state budgets from existing.

Dustin Gouker from Legal Sports Report, states on his Twitter, how against sports betting these leagues were until they: “1. had no choice but to embrace it and 2. could make money from it.”

He is 100% right, especially when it comes to the latter. It’s always about money, never about the fans. No matter what they tell you, and this proves it once again.

To be fair, Rob Manfred is the current MLB commissioner, but Bud Selig was the one with the negative comments.

Goodell’s comments only acknowledge the obvious, that the Supreme Court’s 2018 repeal of Paspa forced NFL and others to live alongside the industry they tried to suffocate. However, now they are fully ready to welcome the revenue that comes with a decision that they were so against.

Hypocrites? I think it goes without saying.

Different Vantage Points

Sportsbook operators may publicly rejoice but privately roll their eyes as professional sports leagues espouse new-found love for gambling.

On one hand, developments over the last year underscore the leagues’ “enlightened” stance.

  • MLB debuted a program called Bettor’s Eye on March 31, a daily betting-focused show produced by MLB. What’s this, baseball openly endorsing sports wagering?  Pete Rose, banned for life because of gambling, must be stewing.
  • Fox Sports 1 produced “Lock it In,” an NFL handicapping show starting in 2018
  • FoxBet sportsbook, during the NFL season, routinely offers odds-boost specials named after one of its former-player-turned analysts.
  • PointsBet has former Sixer great Allen Iverson doing some of its commercials.  Paige Spiranac, a professional golfer, weighed in with the book during the 2021 Masters.
  • DraftKings and FanDuel have extensive partnerships with the PGA.
  • The XFL, which showed flashes of competitiveness before being shortened by Covid-19 last year, fully dramatized the accent on juice. It openly displayed and discussed odds, even those which changed in game.

Sensing the spirit of seasoned bettors, and being gamblers themselves, commentators noted the ebb-and-flow of changing odds. This league understood gambling better than anybody. It is likely this league will return in 2022 under the auspices of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

Lounges inside sports stadium are sponsored by sportsbooks. And many professional athletes have become gambling pitchmen and pitch women for various sportsbooks.

All told, this suggests a utopian era between the leagues and the bettors.

New gamblers, in fact, might consider this a superb discovery. Look at all those promos, where $1 gains a guaranteed $100 at DraftKings or FanDuel can entice hundreds of thousands of gamblers for a Spread the Love promotion. Its focus, wait for it, is ….the betting line.

All these affiliations make sense today. But they should have happened yesterday, even decades ago.

Here’s the “other hand”.

NFL Integrity Sacked

It’s not surprising that the league stance turned on a dime, because its entire persona is money.

The NFL has long led the hypocrisy hit parade. Several decades back, it suspended players for gambling, even while its owners made bets. The league also did little when Eagles owner Leonard Tose had to sell the team to repay an estimated $25 million Atlantic City gambling tab.

That happened before 1991, when Paspa was still a proposal from former New York Knicks great Bill Bradley.  NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue came out strongly against legalized gambling.

Tagliabue offered a formal statement to the House Judiciary Committee to support Paspa “in the strongest possible terms.” Unfortunately, his sentiment helped create the legislation that took 26 more years to repeal via the Supreme Court.

“We do not want our games used as bait to sell gambling,” Tagliabue said. “We should not gamble with our children’s heroes…With legalized sports gambling, our games instead would come to represent the fast buck, the quick fix, the desire to get something for nothing.”

Hmm. There’s no bigger something-for-nothing than legalized gouging for a personal seat license teams force season ticket holder to buy. The seat license is merely the right to buy a season ticket. It’s a monstrous surcharge for the right to later pay through the nose for refreshments, parking, souvenirs and game tickets. Fans must pay this money to the teams.

Some of the PSL’s cost six figures, netting individual sports franchises millions of dollars.

This is actually mandated gambling. The PSL can be resold, but what if the market is down 20 or 30 years from now on something that may cost in the neighborhood of $100,000 today.?

For the right to buy the seat, endure traffic jams and watch about 15 minutes of action in a three-and-a-half-hour game, the season ticket-holder must also know the PSL stock market.

Here’s another form of the “fast buck”.  The NFL exploits the captive television audience by making viewers endure endless rhythm-robbing commercials in a game. A touchdown followed by four minutes of commercials, leading to a kickoff that sails out of the end zone. And four more minutes of commercials. The league has, at times, even framed an ad on the edges of a box surrounding kickoffs.

A commercial right in the middle of a drive. Scheduled TV timeouts   and even this kicker when someone signed up for Direct TV Sunday Ticket to watch every game a handful of seasons back: At 1:11 p.m., just 11 minutes into the schedule, EVERY game had a commercial. The entire NFL was an ad (Thank goodness for the commercial-free NFL Red Zone).

The league cloaked its opposition to entities making money off of it   in sentiments like “protecting public integrity” while shamelessly shelving its own.

One recalls the “Casablanca” movie scene, when an inspector says he is “shocked” to find gambling going on here”, one second before someone says “your winnings sir.”

There’s also a humorous retrospect regarding the Prohibition-Era type cryptic message NFL announcers used to illuminate unstated gambling.

Al Michaels once described a field goal that would have rewarded “over” bettors and broken a tie on the point spread.   When the kick missed, he said it  was “pushed” left and “under” the crossbar.

The bettors got it.

During this time, the league never acknowledged that without wagering, there is no NFL. Why else would an Eagles fan watch a 4 p.m. game between the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks?

Only betting action, albeit illegal, could elevate meaningless games.

During this time, the NFL also entered the fantasy sports realm, touting its own contests while bemoaning the pitfalls of illegal gambling.

IRONY – How Betting Saves the NFL

Sportsbooks truly kicked into gear in 2019. Before long, the glaring example of the league needing the bettors emerged.

In a post authored for njbetting.com, I outlined this strange partnership.

The NFL, which once sued to prevent gambling and gamblers, offered a lackluster Monday Night Football game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals that only bettors could save.

Both teams were 0-3. There was no interest outside of that region for the game. There may been little inside of it either.

But because of gambling, the NFL could draw viewers and satisfy advertisers. Because of the spread, the competition by quarter, the half and over-unders, there was reason to watch until the end. A reason to endure the hideous commercial breaks.

The apps and the gamblers rescued a non-event.

Can you imagine the pre-game open WITHOUT gambling?

“Welcome to Monday Night Football with the 0-3 Steelers and 0-3 Bengals. Somebody’s “O” has got to go.”

Neither team made the playoffs.

The Silver Lining

How much revenue was lost by the leagues and the government stonewalling legal gambling for more than a quarter century? A lot.

But not nearly as much as if the leagues had succeeded today.

Mobile betting has taken sports betting far beyond the vision of sports-wagering pioneers. They had foreseen brick-and-mortar super books, with a carnival atmosphere a few days a year. Now everyone holds a sportsbook in his/her hand. Spot it, analyze it, press a button and book it.

The real sports-betting money is being made now. The real age of sports betting is now.

Many people would be happy to see sports leagues thank the enterprise that keeps them relevant and move on.

But there are better odds on the Pittsburgh Pirates winning the World Series.

Greed always dies hard.

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Dave Bontempo Avatar
Written by
Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo, a national multi-award-winning writer, and broadcaster, writes extensively on the evolving legalized sports-wagering world. Over the past four decades, he has called fights for all major networks, authored columns for the Associated Press, Atlantic City Press, and iGaming Player. He is in the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame, the Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame and a Sam Taub Award for broadcast excellence, given by the Boxing Writers Association of America.

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