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 Web site 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.
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, most recently in New Jersey.
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 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 perpetual 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 Wal-Mart 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!