Many years ago, when the annual boys golf trip used to take me to Vegas, our trip coincided with The Preakness Stakes. On the day of the race, we’d usually leave for the golf course around 7 AM Pacific Time/10 AM Eastern Time, and the sports book would already be starting to fill up. By the time we got back to the hotel, usually just in time for the race, it was standing room only and you could feel the excitement in the air. It’s not just horse racing. Name a sport and you can bet on it Las Vegas.
With 4 of the casinos in Atlantic City having closed or soon to be closed, and with the competition from casinos in neighboring states continuing to put pressure on the remaining NJ casinos, the Garden State has decided to allow legal gambling in their casinos. So what do the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and NCAA do? They sue to stop legalized gambling in NJ for fear that it will hurt the “integrity of the game.” Oh give me a break.
Forgetting the other 3 professional sports, let’s focus on the NFL. The NFL – home of Fantasy Football – thinks letting casinos in NJ take bets on their games is going to have an effect on the integrity of their sport? This is from a league that openly sponsors Fantasy Football, actually has entire shows devoted to Fantasy Leagues on their own TV network and the other networks that carry their sport to millions of viewers. What do they think all these people who play Fantasy Football are doing with all this information? Playing for points or peanuts? No, Fantasy Football is organized gambling encouraged by the NFL as a way to boost it’s popularity, drive-up TV ratings and keep fans interested. During some TV coverage, they even run the fantasy points in the scroll at the bottom of the TV. You can smell the hypocrisy from here all the way to NFL headquarters.
And don’t get me started on the NCAA and their objections. The NCAA is an organization that can’t get out of it’s own way right now, and could be headed to the sports organization graveyard in the next few years if they are not careful. I read somewhere the NCAA Basketball Tournament is the number one sports gambling event in the United States. Ask anyone who has been to Vegas for the first weekend of the tournament and they will tell how insane things are there. The sports books routinely fill up when the first games tip-off and don’t clear out until the last game ends some 12 hours later.
Personally, I don’t gamble on sports, don’t play fantasy, haven’t participated in NCAA tournament pool in years, and have only been to the race track once or twice in the past 5 or 6 years. But I know lots of people who are big fantasy players, have more than one team, have elaborate draft day events at home or the local sports bar, and who spend their entire Sunday watching NFL RedZone so they can keep track of their fantasy points. If you took the fantasy out of football, I wonder how many of these diehard fans would still watch? What effect this would have the ratings? Subsequently the effect on the pocketbooks of the league, the owners, and the players.
My opinion is that the popularity of the NFL is driven in a big way by the illegal gambling that goes on through Fantasy Football. For the NFL to deny this is the height of hypocrisy and for them to sue the State of New Jersey to keep gambling on their sport illegal because it calls into question “the integrity of the game” is just beyond crazy and a waste of money for the state of NJ to defend itself. Makes me think that it’s not only the players who have been getting their bells rung all these years, but it’s really the owners and league officials who should have their heads examined.