NFL Explains Opposition to Gambling in Delaware

Delaware exists for people to get from New Jersey to Maryland and back again. Other than a few nice beaches and tax-free shopping, Delaware is ostensibly a causeway for people trying to get to a more exciting place on the Eastern Seaboard. ↵

↵Clearly, those in charge of Delaware wanted to change their image and make the state known for more than just their representative at the Continental Congress calling ‘frontsies.’ (I guess in the blog world, Delaware would be the ultimate "FIRST!") ↵

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↵Enter sports gambling. With Atlantic City just to the north and the increased number of casinos popping up in Pennsylvania, sports gambling would be a boon to Delaware’s economy. Sports gambling won’t just attract the locals to throw down five bucks on their way home from work for the Pick Six. Sports gambling is a tourism cash cow. Families will flock to Delaware for vacations, at the expense of New Jersey mind you, and while the kids hang out on the beach, daddy’s in the sports book laying $200 on a three-team parlay. Everybody wins! ↵

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↵Why then, are professional sports leagues trying so hard to block this from happening? Late last week, there were reports that a federal appeals court will expedite a hearing on the litigation between Delaware and the entire American sports world, including the four major leagues and the NCAA. Originally set to be heard in December, an appeals court will review the case starting August 24. ↵

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↵Why would the leagues be so adamant about blocking Delaware from having sports gambling in the first place? You can make the case for the NCAA in that the organization, while making money hand over fist, claims to maintain an amateur, non-profit status. Add to the fact that Delaware has several universities and colleges that play NCAA-sanctioned sports and a clear conflict of interest arises. ↵

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↵But Delaware has no professional sports teams (save minor league baseball). And sports gambling is already legal in this country and has been a multi-billion dollar, taxable business. So what’s the big deal? ↵

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↵I reached out to the NFL to understand why the league is so adamantly opposed to Delaware’s attempt to legalize sports betting: ↵

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↵⇥"We oppose further state-operated gambling on individual NFL games because it presents a threat to the integrity of those games and to the long-term relationship between the NFL and its fans," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told me via email. ↵⇥
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↵⇥"If you make it easier for people to gamble then more people will. This would increase the chances for people to question the integrity of the game. Those people who are upset will question whether an erroneous officiating call or dropped pass late in the game resulted from an honest mistake or an intentional act by a corrupt player or official." ↵
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↵The NFL’s official position is that by legalizing something and making it a taxable revenue the state can regulate and profit from, it would create less integrity in their game? ↵

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↵It’s the ultimate "don’t ask, don’t tell." The NFL has to know how much money is gambled at shady online casinos and shadier street corners every week. But as long as it’s illegal in this country, the league doesn’t have to worry about it infiltrating the sanctity of the game. ↵

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↵I brought up the fact that the NBA recently dealt with the Tim Donaghy situation, and MLB is still trying to crawl out from under Pete Rose’s marker, which would explain, from a PR standpoint, why those leagues would take issue with anything gambling related. But the NFL has been gambling-related scandal-free for years. ↵

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↵⇥"The cases you cite above are exactly why we work so hard to keep the public trust in our sport and why we oppose further state-operated gambling on individual NFL games. We have all witnessed the negative impact of those scandals or the numerous betting scandals in Europe or the periodic college scandals here in the U.S. These incidents and the subsequent fallout continue to remind us that the threat to the integrity of games is real. Just because we haven't had these types of incidents recently doesn't mean it couldn't happen to us. We have been fortunate to avoid these types of incidents and continue to work hard to ensure that fans trust our players and our game." ↵
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↵The case can be made that many of these scandals -- including a few in the distant past of the NFL -- were a product of illegal gambling outfits and may have been more easily snuffed out if the bets were made through legal channels. The scandals in Europe, namely tennis match fixing, were more easily snuffed out because betting on the games was legal, and the bets more easily traceable. And sure, you can give me a study in 1988 in which the state of New Jersey found that legalizing gambling did nothing to lessen the magnitude or frequency of illegal gambling in the state, but that only illustrates that while it may not impact the illegal gambling, legalizing gambling does create an entirely new revenue stream for the states, and in turn, the leagues who can charge the casinos more money for television rights and create league-themed restaurants and shops to attract the gambling sports fan. ↵

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↵We’re never going to agree on this, are we NFL? I’m not asking for the league to endorse sports gambling -- to put Peyton Manning at a sports book taking the Colts and the over -- but it seems to make sense to quietly let this pass without a fight. After all, more gambling on sports means more interest in sports. So why wouldn’t the leagues want more interest? ↵

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↵Delaware clearly hopes next week’s ruling goes in its favor. Otherwise, legislators might have to turn to the next gambling-related money making venture: retrofitting the tollbooths on 95 into slot machines. And you thought traffic was bad now. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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