I like the NFL so much, I am going to do it a big favor today. Rather than simply pummel the league again for its decades-old, hypocritical stance on gambling – oh, we’ll do a little of that first – I will offer the world’s richest men a way to make themselves even richer!
Let’s briefly review the NFL’s official stance on gambling:
1. It is bad.
2. It is evil.
Yet here’s the thing about the NFL:
• NFL teams have licensing agreements with state lotteries, which, the last time I looked, were an undeniable form of gambling.
• The NFL thumbs its nose at Las Vegas but plays games in London, where Londoners can bet on those contests at betting parlors, some within walking distance of Wembley Stadium, the NFL’s British home field.
• The NFL runs its own fantasy website at nfl.com.
Now, as I’ve often said, if fantasy isn’t gambling, then Penthouse isn’t pornographic; ah, but the NFL’s fantasy games are “free,” with no money exchanged. Which reminds me of the “kid-sino” that gambling properties sometimes have. It essentially is a game room/video arcade for minors on-site at a casino; there’s no gambling in there, but many of the offerings are – how shall we say? – gentle steppingstones to the adult arcade just footsteps away that awaits them in a handful of years.
Anyway, the NFL is anti-gambling but pro-fantasy. That’s like being anti-slaughterhouse but pro-chateaubriand.
(Note to readers: The growth of fantasy sports – where you wager on how well players are going to do – is another column for another day. Heck, it might be two columns. Scratch that – I might devote the entire month of January to the rise and fall of the American Empire as impacted by our raging fantasy obsession.)
The NFL mightily distances itself from anyone trying to bet NFL games, and to this end, the league has fought against expansion of sports gambling.
But maybe it’s time the NFL hopped the train to Wagerville instead of trying to lay down on the tracks to stop it.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver recently called for the legalization of sports gambling. Silver’s pro-gambling posture wasn’t a moral epiphany, it was a pragmatic acceptance, to allow the NBA to eventually reap dividends.
After all, there is a $400 billion-a-year market of illegal sports betting. Who among Jerry Jones and Mark Cuban and Jeffrey Loria doesn’t want in on a piece of that gold rush?
So here’s where I’m going to throw a T-bone to the NFL’s well-heeled overlords:
Switch course, support sports gambling and set up your own bookmaking shop.
Quite simply, the NFL should book its own bets.
Why shouldn’t the NFL, or any other league, run its own wagering operation? It’s their product – it’s got to kill those money moguls to see so many dollars changing hands just beyond their reach, all off the backs of their concussed players’ hard labor.
Plus the NFL already has its own TV network; taking bets would create four hours of daily programming debating point-spread picks.
The NFL should do what Walmart does – undercut the competition and run ’em out of business. Charge a smaller vig per bet and offer incentives tied to the league, like tickets and merchandise. Start a frequent-betting rewards program with NFL-branded perks.
A sit-down with Richard Sherman! (25,000 points)
A weekend at NFL Films with Jaws! (50,000 points)
A chance to make the Jaguars’ third-round pick at the next NFL draft! (100,000 points)
This would complete a fascinating evolution of sports gambling in America, from your neighborhood bookie to an offshore betting site to Park Avenue. And it would give the biggest, best-dressed law-and-order man in town a whole new fiefdom to run – ladies and gentlemen, I give you America’s next rogue bookie, Roger Goodell!
Ask The Slouch
Q. You appear to have a single, polarizing position on Division I athletics – get rid of ’em. Can’t you find a middle ground that pleases more people? (Michael Lipson; Atlanta)
A. As long as huge swaths of Sports Nation pretend that college football and basketball have anything to do with college, there is no hope. And why do we pretend? Because there are too many games to win, too much money to make, too many championships to chase and too much pleasure in watching it all.
Q. Why did you spare your alma mater Maryland from your semi-rational rant against college athletics? (Stuart Klein; Arlington, Virginia)
A. Trust me, it was an oversight. When I was a Terp, an occasional football or basketball “student-athlete” undoubtedly was a classmate of mine, except I wouldn’t know, because they never came to class (though some of them, I’m sure, got better grades than me).
Q. If I’ve already locked up a spot in my fantasy football league playoffs, should I be resting my starters so that they’re fresh next week? (Adam Mael; Ann Arbor, Michigan.)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
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