The NFL has done a complete 180 on sports gambling in recent years, but were they ever REALLY against it?
The NFL Loves Sports Gambling?!
If you’ve watched any NFL football over the past couple of years, you know that you can’t get through an NFL game without constant sports betting advertisements.
If it’s not a sports betting commercial, it’s an announcer talking about which team might not cover the spread tonight. When it’s not the announcer himself, Spreads & Over/Under’s are being shown in graphics during the Fox (think Fox Bet) broadcasts every Sunday.
It’s not just the NFL BTW. Soon, every league will be broadcasting games with an emphasis on sports betting.
NFL.com & NFL Network are even producing sports betting content. It’s everywhere!
The NFL took in just under $1 Billion in sponsorship revenues from DraftKings, FanDuel & Caesar’s combined last season. They also have deals with BetMGM, Fox Bet, WynnBET, & PointsBet, further inflating the NFL’s gambling sponsorship revenues.
The NFL is literally setting sponsorship revenue records & sports gambling is playing a huge role in it.
Avid sports fans know that this wasn’t always the case. In fact it was quite the opposite.
The NFL Hates Sports Gambling?!
Just a few years ago, the NFL was rigidly opposed to sports gambling and didn’t want to be associated with the industry. This is obviously because the association with sports gambling opens the door for accusations of game fixing & things of the sort.
For example, when New Jersey was fighting to legalize sports betting, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell stated that the spread of sports betting would threaten “to damage irreparably the integrity of, and public confidence in, NFL football.”
During a deposition in 2012, an NFL lawyer stated the league was adamantly opposed to sports gambling because it would negatively impact their long term relationship with fans & negatively impact the perception of the sport across the country.
The NFL wouldn’t even allow its players to participate in events sponsored by casinos just a few short years ago.
Trey Wingo, former host of NFL Live on ESPN, has stated that he needed to be “careful” with his words while on the show. He needed to use cryptic language to bounce around the legitimate sports betting terms.
We’d say ‘more or less’ than a number for points scored. Anything to not use the actual words for prop bets. Now the league has three official betting partners.Trey Wingo
Did The NFL Ever REALLY Oppose Sports Gambling?
The NFL was doing everything it could to position themselves against sports gambling in an effort to protect the perceived integrity of the game & to protect themselves.
Plus, the money in sports gambling at the time wasn’t worth the hassle of potential scandals & a bad rep.
The NFL does not care to find out if the integrity of the game is compromised. Finding that out would be detrimental to the league if it became public knowledge. As long as they took a strong stance against sports gambling, the league believed the fans wouldn’t care to find out either.
Along with that, a strong stance against sports gambling would likely dissolve any blame pointed towards the league in the case of a game-fixing situation arising.
But did the NFL really disavow sports gambling as much as it pretended to?
Pro Football Was Built By Sports Gamblers
Tim Mara – New York Giants
Tim Mara got his start in the sports gambling business when he was 13 years old working a paper route. He’d “run bets” for bookmakers while on the route. By 15, he was booking bets himself as a legal bookie.
Mara was 38 when the organization now known as the NFL was about to fold. Most of the teams were located in midwestern & eastern factory towns, & the president of the league, Joe Carr, knew he needed a big market team like New York.
Tim Mara & his bookmaking money stepped in & the New York Giants were born. He still kept up with being a bookie while being the owner of the Giants.
Funny enough, he even took a bet from Pittsburgh Steelers’ owner Art Rooney once.
Speaking of Art Rooney, who’s family still owns the Steelers; he was a big time gambler who loved to bet the ponies.
Chicago Cardinals’ owner Charley Bidwell owned horse and dog tracks & was a gambler himself. His family still owns the franchise, now the Arizona Cardinals.
In the late 1930’s, Mickey McBride owned a news wire service that sold information to bookmakers. By 1944, he was the owner of the Cleveland Browns.
George Richards is credited with starting the NFL’s Thanksgiving Day tradition. He also placed wagers on Detroit Lions games while owning the Detroit Lions.
Philadelphia Eagles owner Bert Bell was also an avid gambler. I’m sure there are plenty more examples I haven’t mentioned or heard about.
How can you tell me that the growth of sports gambling will be detrimental to the NFL when sports gamblers essentially built the NFL?
1963 NFL Gambling Scandal & PASPA
The NFL never had an issue with sports gambling in it’s early days of existence, but everything changed in 1963.
In that year, two NFL stars, Paul Hornung & Alex Karras were suspended for betting on league games.
The NFL felt the correlation to sports gambling would now damage the perceived integrity of the game. So, they took a hard stance after that.
By 1992, PASPA (Professional & Amateur Sports Protection Act) banned sports wagering in most states, which only increased the NFL’s fear of being associated with sports gambling.
This is why the NFL had portrayed such a strong stance against sports gambling. They never actually cared. The league was just saving face.
The NFL is now fully in bed with sports gambling, despite spending decades positioning themselves on the other side of the issue.
With sports gambling now legalized in many states & the growing popularity of the industry as a whole, the money that comes along with sports gambling sponsors is too much to pass up on.
This is the only reason the NFL did a 180 on sports gambling. Money talks.
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