What will it take for the NFL to embrace Sports Betting?
“It would be hard for the NFL to defend when people can walk100 yards to bet at William Hill or Paddy Power when they play in London. They do it another country. How can they not do it in our country?” – Jimmy Vaccaro, a veteran bookmaker at South Point Casino, Las Vegas, NV
A few years ago I embarked on a marvelous journey that involved my decision to create an account on Twitter that would be used to promote a sports talk radio program which at that time, and still to this day, is broadcast live every weeknight out of Las Vegas, Nevada. At that time I had no interest in advocating for legalized sports betting, had never placed a legal wager at a sports book, and quite frankly could care less about the odds of sports betting becoming legal in states outside of Nevada. I was simply looking to help share about a charity campaign set up for a former Oakland Raider who had sadly been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis [ALS], also called Lou Gehrig’s disease. As my way of saying ‘thank you’ to the host of the show who had allowed me to use the show’s Twitter account to share about something I was passionate about, I decided I would use Twitter to promote the show. Since then I’ve shared my social media story several times and it’s been published more than once by periodicals and magazines.
Something that happened along the way, and quite early on actually, when I was doing this work for the show was my being asked by one of the major players in Vegas to promote their fantasy sports initiative. I was all the more happy to do so and worked on some innovative marketing strategies that would allow me to use Twitter to gain attention for the fantasy initiative. One of the things I did was purchase the domain www.mondaynightfantasy.com in hopes that I could use it to point to the site and/or I would convince those involved that having a game dedicated to Monday night would be a pretty cool thing considering the #MNF hashtag is so popular during games. I had no idea at the time I would one day be courted at a casino and told that my domain was worth a million dollars. Only I soon would be wined and dined and told that my domain was indeed priceless.
So what happened? Why isn’t there a wonderful fantasy game that all comes down to Monday, and why aren’t I sitting in a financially secure situation today with my million dollar bankroll? Well, for starters the fantasy sports industry and the gaming industry seem to have made strange bedfellows and the legalities of fantasy sports, especially daily fantasy sports, were questioned. No sooner did the gaming company that entered into the fantasy sports arena begin to engage in fantasy sports when it pulled out. At that time, I was told that although my idea was a good one, great even…. it would have to wait because timing was key. What did that mean? Eventually I was told that it all had to do with the problems with fantasy sports and sports betting and having a fantasy game that was predicated upon just one game would be problematic. It would, in a sense, be considered sports betting and sport betting is illegal. Well, it’s illegal except in Vegas [and other parts of the world, like let’s say London ]. Vegas just is not interested in fantasy sports, so said Jay Kornegay, the manager of the sports book at the Westgate Hotel in a face-to-face meeting I had with him a few years back. Of course, that was then.
Over the past two years I have kept a close eye on fantasy sports and the issues pertaining to the NFL’s posture on the legalization of sports betting. I must admit I’m baffled. Simultaneously, the state of New Jersey seemed to be on a mission or perhaps it was Governor Chris Christie who was on a mission to have sports betting become legal in the state. Having completed my core curriculum toward a doctorate degree in public policy administration with a specialization in law gave me great insight into the process of making laws and arguing both for and against them. Let’s just say that, that in my view, when you want to make a strong case for reasons that sports betting should be legal in states other than Nevada, it’s doable. In fact, I would venture to say there are more reasons supporting the legalization of sports betting than not. Simply look to current NBA commissioner, Adam Silver, for a realistic stance on the matter. Seeing the way technology had advanced to the point that having an opportunity to become educated about the potential bets one could make seemed to me to allow everyone somewhat of a fair chance at coming out on top of a sports bet. It’s not like the old days when inside information was passed via close insiders because with social media outlets there’s just so much access to information. Seriously, sometimes I think I know news before it’s out there breaking on a major network just because I happen to have become so closely connected and key close tabs on Twitter.
So getting back to the topic at hand, which by the way was entitled, “What will it take for the NFL to embrace sports betting?” In my opinion, it would take an open mind and an ability to see beyond the past and toward the future. As Case Keefer articulated in the article published by the Las Vegas Sun on Saturday, January 30th at 2 a.m., the “NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell positioned himself as a longtime detractor of gambling.” Yet, the commissioner has also spoken out that he has been wrong about some things. I actually think he’s willing to engage in open discussion about how the league can evolve and that if others have a handle on how to manage legalized sports betting without it hindering the integrity of the game, he is apt to listen. In other words he needs to change his mindset. With intelligent arguments laid out in front of him, and his willingness to be open minded, there is a chance he might at least be able to see both sides of the argument and not remained entrenched in a somewhat hypocritical and outdated posture.
Will the Oakland Raiders move to Vegas? I would say the odds are as good as www.mondaynightfantasy.com one day hosting a game or a contest based on #MNF stats and becoming a million dollar domain. It could simply be just a matter of time.