NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 26: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell stands on stage as he announces a draft selection during the 2012 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 26, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
New Jersey wants sports betting, the NFL does not. So when the state started pursuing it, it was just a matter of time before the NFL's lawyers came calling. They did today.
Legalized sports betting in New Jersey became a longshot Tuesday when the NFL, other pro leagues and the NCAA filed a lawsuit to block the state from offering Nevada-style wagering.
The NFL - the most hypocritical of all of these groups since its overall popularity leans heavily on the popularity of point spreads - was joined by the NBA, NHL, MLB and NCAA is filing suit.
"Gambling on amateur and professional sports threatens the integrity of those sports and is fundamentally at odds with the principle… that the outcome of collegiate and professional athletic contests must be determined, and must be perceived by the public as being determined, solely on the basis of honest athletic competition."
In January, Gov. Chris Christie signed a law permitting sports betting at state casinos and racetracks. The state has complained that only Nevada has the right to offer betting, because other states did not opt in back in 1992 under the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act.
Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon opted in, although only Delaware has done anything with the right, mainly a small lottery. Oregon had planned to offer a lottery-style game, but changed its mind after the NCAA suggested the state would never get a bowl game or March Madness game ever again if it proceeded.
Gov. Christie predicted the leagues would challenge and now the challenge is here. He has stated he wanted sports betting live by November. It's not clear how this challenge will impact it, but there is now an army of lawyers primed to drag this process out for years.
The fact that Canada - via government-run sports lotteries - and the rest of the world regulates and licenses sports betting has never shaken the league's legal and moral opinion that betting will ruin sports. The argument is that the availability of betting will encourage criminals to make money off bookmaking and that all athletes will be tempted to shave points and throw games.
"The notion that pro athletes, who make millions every year, will en masse become flunkies to sports bettors and mob bookies is pretty ludicrous," said Mike Pickett, the lead NFL handicapper at OddsShark.com.
"And the notion that college kids will be tempted has already been proven true when there are bad apples in the barrel - it's not going to suddenly happen if betting is legalized; it's been happening for decades already."
Indeed, the Wire Act of 1961 was designed to thwart sports gambling by making it illegal for money to cross state lines or to communicate bets over phone lines. That was 50 years ago.
And online sportsbooks have been pervasive since about 1995, meaning sports betting has been happening on computers across America for 17 years.
Why no upsurge in point-shaving and scandals of thrown games up to this point?
Critics have long maintained that regulating and licensing (and taxing) the industry is the best way to crack down on criminal elements, while also making it safer for the public and keeping tax revenue on-shore.
Overseas, Betfair and other major sportsbooks share information with the leagues. If they notice irregular betting patterns, they alert league officials to investigate. This information has led to match-fixing charges in tennis and soccer over the years.
"You lift sports betting up from society's underground, removing profit potential from the bad guys while actually making it harder for anyone to throw games or influence outcomes," said Pickett.
"It's one of those real head-scratchers, because it makes so much sense. But you have right-wing elements who oppose gambling generally as a moral sin and you have the NCAA and the leagues maintaining a false piety over betting.
"Why do you think teams are required to provide injury information each week? Why do you think the games are spaced nicely apart Sunday afternoon and evening? It has more to do with letting people call their bookie or log onto to their online betting account than with any excuses about television schedules or letting people have 15 minutes to grab a beer and a snack."
Oh, and NFL preseason betting begins in earnest Thursday....