Brandywine president Joe Asher wrote and pro-gambling article
supporting New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's push for legalized sports betting. Asher obviously has an agenda – legalized sports betting could mean big bucks for Brandywine. And the article’s vanilla approach was probably premeditated considering it was published on USNews.com – I highly doubt many readers made a 5-inning line bet today. But with sports betting being such a hot topic in the mainstream media, opinions like these – no matter what the motive – deserve to be dissected from someone who actually bets on a daily basis.
Asher starts out by harping about the lack of protection for bettors using offshore sportsbooks.
These illegal wagers—placed through "street bookies" and offshore web sites—are unregulated, untaxed, and leave bettors—who simply want a little action on the game—totally unprotected. Legalizing and taxing sports betting is an easy way for cash-strapped states to raise money and protect citizens from shady operators.
I’ll admit that there is a risk but by doing your homework, safely playing at a reputable sportsbook isn’t difficult. I don’t even live in Las Vegas and in all my years of betting, I’ve never had a problem. Now considering my line of work, I have access to better “accommodations” than the average bettor. But with a minimal amount of legwork even your $50 player from Duluth can find a comfortable situation. This brings us to a potential dilemma a lot of bettors will face if sports betting does become legalized: Do you continue playing offshore or offscreen with a local or do you test the waters in the US where it is “safe” and “regulated” but also heavily monitored? Most of us have no idea what type of format is going to be provided to US citizens should it become legal. Is it a casino-only deal, or will there be a 5Dimes Omaha branch? If the online thing happens, I will be taking a wait-and-see approach before I load up my account using a credit card. My current "setup" is very convenient and I’m not exactly giddy of the prospects of using US-based websites that may or may not be watching my every move.
Back to Asher. And this is one that I have never really agreed with.
Let's imagine that we could really stop all forms of sports betting in the United States, by arresting all the bookies and shutting every offshore Web site. It would be a disaster for the NFL. Television ratings would plummet and interest would wane.
Everyone knows the NFL is anti-gambling. And in all reality, what other angle can they take? Think about it. In the public eye, gambling is seen as being far more negative than positive. A lot of folks associate gambling with addiction, Sin City, bookies, point shaving, destroyed families, debt...the list goes on. So why would the NFL come out in support of something that despite being harmless to a vast majority of its participants has long been viewed as an evil? The answer is they are not, and I can hardly blame them. And this brings me to my next point which is strictly my own opinion: The NFL would still thrive if sports betting were completely wiped off the face of the earth. Asher tried to argue that TV ratings would plummet because during the fourth quarter of a blowout, with no money on the line, no one would be watching. Really? I see all of these huge numbers associated with how much betting takes place in American and how much illegal money changes hands yet in reality, a shit-ton of people who religiously follow and watch the NFL don't bet! The NFL's popularity, TV ratings and overall product without gambling would be fine. I rarely if ever watch a game that I am not involved in from a betting perspective. Take sports betting away and guess what, I’d go back to being a fan just like I was when I was 10 years old and didn't even know what a pointspread was.
The good thing is, sports betting isn't going away and the NFL knows it and that is why they'll always take the safe, with-the-masses approach and not support it. The NFL might throw some money at an anti-gambling group but I’m of the thinking that deep down inside, they really don’t care. They say they do because they have an image to uphold. They are well aware of the fact that gamblers to a certain degree help their bottom line. How much help is open for debate, but regardless of whether or not betting is present, the machine will continue to run.
Anyway, what bugs me about all of the press coverage is that most of it comes from politicians searching for a means of revenue and casino executives looking to cash in. I fully understand those angles give us our best odds of legalization but what about that whole adult thing and having the right to choose what we do? I know, I know, wishful thinking, right? And maybe guys like Asher and Christie are in some way motivated by the thought of providing the public with more personal freedoms. It unfortunately would do more harm than good to voice that opinion though. I’m pulling hard for sports betting to become legal. If anything, I’ll get to witness how bad the government will screw it up. In the meantime, I’ll happily make do with the current format.
Follow me on Twitter: @LangeSportsmemo