Like everywhere else, the NFL needs to find new revenue streams to ward off recession and accommodate new expenses for things like paying medical benefits for veterans. It’s hard to see how they’ll be able to do it given the current economic climate, unless you take a suggestion from a BLOOMBERG editorial written by Joe Saumarez-Smith into consideration. Saumarez-Smith claims that, by licensing betting on the league’s games, the NFL could easily net $1.5 billion per year … as a starting point.
Granted, Saumarez-Smith has his own interests in mind; he’s the CEO of Sports Gaming, a British management consulting firm to the gaming industry. But he does make a number of important points, not the least of which is pure logic: Why should the league allow bets to be made in Las Vegas but not everywhere? All it would take is licensing casinos in other states to allow betting on NFL games. It’s not a hard thing to do.
The traditional critique of legalized sports betting is that it leads to a slippery slope of addictive gambling. But that’s not entirely fair. In fact, people do gamble on the NFL already, and do so all over the world — legally in foreign countries, and illegally through neighborhood bookies here in the U.S. By prohibiting licensed gambling, the NFL loses any ability to control it. If the league licensed gambling, it could use a small part of the proceeds to help addicted gamblers, set up a task force to monitor betting trends on its games worldwide and ensure that foreign handicappers are unable to affect any NFL players. It can’t do that now, so we’re going into each game with blind faith that the result we see is genuine.
That’s pretty much the way it works in England, where sports books have to report all their betting trends to the Football Association, which monitors them and is alerted when wagering trends tip off a potential team on the take. It’s like the NFL with a safety net guarding against bookies sticking their fingers in and affecting important games.
Instead of fighting back, as it always does, the NFL could throw up its hands, once and for all, and just decide to license all the bets that are being made on it anyway, whether it wants them or not. The additional money would be good for the league, the government (extra tax revenue from local gambling taxes) and, in all likelihood, the game.