Legal wagering least of concerns for NFL, sports leagues

The gamblers of Philadelphia have to be trembling with excitement at the thought of driving a few miles this fall to place bets on their beloved Eagles. It may not be long before Delaware lures them all with the promise of new point spreads every week.

Of course, everyone knows what will happen to these poor fools.

They’ll blow money being saved to pay the overdue home improvement loan, and have to sell the minivan to pay the heating bill. There will be no summer camp for the kids next year because dad blew it on what seemed like a sure bet, say the Eagles, plus a point, over Carolina in the season opener.

Worse yet, a few of them might get together to see if they can pool enough of their money to somehow convince Donovan McNabb to throw a few games.

Oh, the horrors that await if Delaware goes ahead with a plan to offer sports betting!

Listen to the NFL, and the idea of taking legal bets on the Eastern seaboard is more of a threat to the game than allowing Michael Vick to run a doggie day care center.

To prevent the sports proposal from happening, the NFL is teaming with the other three major leagues and the NCAA to keep Delaware out of the bookie business. They’re asking a federal judge to prohibit betting even as much as one $5 parlay, lest their sports be ruined forever.

The whole thing is so hypocritical it’s laughable, though that hasn’t stopped the NFL before. Gamblers helped found the league and gambling helped make it what it is, but the league takes such a high moral ground on the issue that its television contracts prohibit announcers from discussing point spreads during games.

Funny, but those same moral values are somehow overlooked when it comes to making millions for team owners. You can throw away your money on NFL-sponsored lottery tickets because the league cashes in on those, but dare to actually make a wager that doesn’t depend on sheer, blind luck and suddenly lawyers start drawing up papers.

The NFL’s argument against sports betting is weak and fraught with stereotypical thinking from the past. That didn’t stop commissioner Roger Goodell from repeating it in the lawsuit, saying betting could make every dropped pass or turnover “fuel speculation, distrust and accusations of point-shaving and game-fixing.”

My guess is Goodell has never been in a Las Vegas sports book on an NFL Sunday, when millions of dollars are wagered on his league’s games, partly because bettors believe things are all on the up and up. They’re not going to part with cash if they think something is fishy, and they are invariably the first ones who pipe up on the rare occasion when it looks like something could be amiss.

What’s really interesting about the Delaware lawsuit, though, isn’t that the NFL is opposing sports betting, because that’s the old party line.

This time, the league has some co-conspirators in its campaign to save America’s bettors from themselves.

Why it took so long for pro baseball, hockey, basketball and the NCAA to join forces is anyone’s guess. Maybe they just needed an issue they could rally around.

Why stop there? The leagues could do any number of things if they act as one.

They could impose Olympic-style drug testing for all players to ensure a level playing field. They could make players actually interact with the fans who pay their salaries. They could come up with ways to shorten games. They could figure out a plan to allow a family to attend a game without sacrificing their first-born child.

Who knows, with all that brain power working together they might even come up with a way to pay for their own stadiums and arenas instead of soaking taxpayers every time they need a new one.

Instead, they go after gamblers with arguments so old and lame that the judge who hears them might have trouble not laughing aloud.

Sports betting may have once been an issue worth fighting about, but those days are long gone. Not with the NFL in the lottery business itself, not with gambling now being such an accepted part of American life.

One thing for certain is there still will be point spreads on NFL games, no matter how the leagues fare in court.

You can bet on that.

Tim Dahlberg is a Las Vegas-based national sports columnist for The Associated Press. He can be reached at

News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like