Sports

Why Can't We Legally Bet on the NFL?

The National Football League is incredibly popular, but TV viewership could grow by almost another 50 percent if the federal government would just make one minor tweak, the American Gaming Association says.

That tweak? Allow sports gambling.

Think about it: How often would you turn off that Dolphins game in frustration if you thought there was an even a chance they were about to cover the point spread? Having money on the line makes everything more interesting. Ask the guys with a regular weekly golf game. Suddenly, even that University of Miami-Florida Atlantic University snooze-fest would become intriguing.

The AGA has been on a campaign for more than a year now asking the government to repeal laws against sports betting. The group lobbies on behalf of the casino industry, with members including both commercial (racetrack) casinos and those owned by Native American tribes.


So, if sports betting was declared legal, who would take the bets, who would show the games, and who could stand to profit? Give yourself a pat on the back if you guessed casinos. Just think about South Florida now: Wouldn’t Sunday afternoons in front of those TVs at Hialeah Park or Mardi Gras Casino be a lot more lively if you had football action? (As an aside, how racetrack and Native American casinos would work out state taxes would surely be entertaining as well.)

The AGA sees this as a way to elevate the casino industry, which is facing some challenges. Older people play slots; millennials don’t. There are going to have to be some changes — and reasonably soon.
The AGA also wouldn’t mind if Daily Fantasy Sports (that’s what those ads for DraftKings and FanDuel are about) were also rooted in casinos, which kind of makes sense because they are already regulated for gambling. But DFS does less than one-tenth the business regular sports betting does. It’s a side dish.

The AGA also points out that greater viewership, which they say would go from 40 million to 57 million, would then create more advertising revenue. They cite a new Nielsen Sports study released Thursday.

The AGA estimated that fans across the country will bet $90 billion on NFL and college football games this season. However, $88 billion – or 98 percent – of all bets will be made illegally, thanks to a federal government ban signed into law by President George H.W. Bush in 1992.

“The federal government ban on sports betting is failing miserably,” says Geoff Freeman, president and CEO of the AGA.

While Delaware, Oregon, and Montana permit some form of legal sports betting, the vast majority of traditional sports wagering occurs in Nevada.

The AGA says illegal sports betting “funds criminal activities, takes advantage of consumers and fails to protect the integrity of America’s favorite pastimes.”

They spell out their case at sportsbettinginamerica.com.

Get daily gambling news at SouthFloridaGambling.com.
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Nick Sortal is South Florida’s expert journalist when it comes to the gambling scene. He covered the openings, expansions, poker tournaments, entertainment, and human-interest facets of the industry for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel from 2007 until taking a buyout in November 2015, capping a 30-year career that included state and national awards and features about naked yoga. He now writes a weekly column for the Miami Herald and also reports about gambling on his site, SouthFloridaGambling.com. The Southern Illinois native worked for papers in St. Louis and Indianapolis before joining the Sun Sentinel in 1985. He likes triathlons, country music, basketball, and bragging about his family.
Contact: Nick Sortal