The NFL's flip-flopping views on gambling

Chris Chase

The NFL has always been conspicuous in its silence over gambling. Even though the practice is popular both legally and illegally and points spreads are openly discussed everywhere, any talk of betting by the league or its network partners is taboo. So, it makes sense that the NFL would come out against a bill in Delaware that will legalize sports gambling this fall (a bill that was upheld by the state's Supreme Court today).

What doesn't make sense is that this opposition would come two weeks after the league allowed its teams to sign licensing deals with the most prevalant form of gambling in this country, state lotteries. (The rationale is that teams can make more money in the sinking economy.)

It's the essence of hypocrisy. Allowing teams to put their names on lottery tickets is a promotion of gambling. Why is it alright to spend $25 on scratch tickets but not to spend $25 wagering on the Patriots? (And to all those doubters out there, yes, lotteries are gambling. People in Gambler's Anonymous are not supposed to buy lottery tickets for a reason.) As Frank Deford points out today, one of those things is completely mindless, while the other at least "requires a smidgen of intelligence."

It's often assumed that the NFL is merely posturing in its anti-gambling stance. The belief is that the league thinks it has to oppose gaming on some moral grounds, but secretly feels beholden to the interest in the game that gambling creates. If that's the case though, why would the NFL sue Delaware? There's no ambiguity in paying a high-powered law firm to go to court over the new law. If that happens, it would sure seem that the NFL is actually against betting on games and not just "pretend" against it.

Either way, the league's ever-shifting stance on gambling is confusing and hypocritical. There should be no distinction between lotteries and wagering on games. I don't make any, but that's mainly because I never win either.