PBS NewsHour | The growing ties between pro sports and sports betting | Season 2024 | Montana PBS

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JOHN: NOT SO LONG AGO, A SUPER BOWL IN LAS VEGAS WOULD HAVE BEEN UNTHINKABLE.

PRO SPORTS AVOIDED ANYTHING TO DO WITH GAMBLING.

AS RECENTLY AS 2015, THE NFL MADE A FANTASY SPORTS CONVENTION OFF LIMITS FOR PLAYERS BECAUSE IT WAS HELD NEXT TO A LAS VEGAS CASINO.

BUT TONIGHT, THE SUPER BOWL IS BEING PLAYED WITHIN SIGHT OF THE VEGAS STRIP.

NOT ONLY THAT, PRO SPORTS LEAGUES AND INDIVIDUAL TEAMS RAKE IN MILLIONS OF DOLLARS A YEAR IN PARTNERSHIP AND AD REVENUE FROM SPORTS BETTING COMPANIES, LIKE DRAFTKINGS AND FANDUEL.

ANDREW BRANDT IS DIRECTOR OF VILLANOVA UNIVERSITY’S MOORHEAD CENTER FOR THE STUDY OF SPORTS LAW.

HE’S ALSO A FORMER GREEN BAY PACKERS EXECUTIVE AND THE HOST OF A PODCAST CALLED “THE BUSINESS OF SPORTS,” WHICH, WE SHOULD NOTE, IS SPONSORED BY DRAFTKINGS.

ANDREW, WHEN YOU WERE HELPING RUN THE PACKERS IN THE EARLY 2000S, DID YOU, COULD YOU EVER IMAGINE THAT THE NFL WOULD BE EMBRACING GAMBLING THE WAY IT IS NOW?

>> JOHN, I COULD NOT.

THERE IS NO AREA OF SPORTS BUSINESS AND SPORTS LAW THAT HAS UNDERGONE A SEA CHANGE LIKE SPORTS BETTING.

WE COULD NOT GET NEAR ANY KIND OF BET BACK IN THE DAY, EVEN BEFORE I WORKED FOR THE PACKERS.

EVERYTHING ABOUT SPORTS BETTING IN SPORTS, FROM LEAGUES, FROM THE NCAA, FROM TEAMS, FROM COMMISSIONERS, FROM OWNERS, TABOO.

IT’S TABOO.

YOU CANNOT GO NEAR THERE.

AND IT’S MIND BOGGLING TO ME THAT TODAY, WE’RE PLAYING A SUPER BOWL IN THE MECCA OF GAMBLING IN THIS COUNTRY, IN LAS VEGAS.

IT JUST SHOWS YOU HOW THINGS HAVE CHANGED OVER THE LAST FEW YEARS, SOMETHING I WOULD HAVE NEVER THOUGHT WHILE WORKING FOR THE PACKERS IN THE EARLY 2000S.

JOHN: WHAT’S THE BRIEF VERSION OF HOW WE GOT HERE FROM THERE?

>> THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY WAS TRYING TO IMPLEMENT SPORTS BETTING OVER A PERIOD OF TIME, AND THEY WERE BLOCKED BECAUSE OF SOME LAW THAT WAS IN THE BOOKS IN 1992 THAT DIDN’T ALLOW STATES TO IMPLEMENT IT.

CHRIS CHRISTIE IN NEW JERSEY WENT TO COURT.

IT LASTED SEVEN YEARS, AND ALL THE LEAGUES, INCLUDING THE NFL, FOUGHT IT IN COURT, SPENT TENS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS OF LEGAL FEES.

AND LO AND BEHOLD, ON MAY 14TH, 2018, THE LEAGUES LOST.

NEW JERSEY WON.

THE DECISION FROM THE SUPREME COURT DIDN’T LEGALIZE SPORTS BETTING, JOHN, BUT WHAT IT DID WAS IT ALLOWS STATES TO IMPLEMENT SPORTS BETTING.

AND AS OF TODAY, THERE ARE 38 STATES AND THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA THAT ARE NOW LEGALIZED SPORTS BETTING.

THE OTHER PART OF IT IS THE LURE OF VEGAS.

VEGAS IS A TOWN THAT HAD EVERYTHING.

IT HAD FUN, IT HAD SHOWS, IT HAD CONCERTS, BUT IT DIDN’T HAVE SPORTS.

AND THEN THE NHL WENT THERE.

THEN THE LAS VEGAS ACES OF THE WNBA WENT THERE.

AND THEN, OF COURSE, THE OAKLAND RAIDERS BECAME THE LAS VEGAS RAIDERS.

THE NFL, TO ME, LOST ALL THEIR MORAL HIGH GROUND WHEN THEY PLACED THE FRANCHISE IN LAS VEGAS.

JOHN: YOU SAY THEY’VE LOST THE MORAL HIGH GROUND, BUT THIS WEEK, COMMISSIONER GOODELL TALKED ABOUT THE INTEGRITY OF THE GAME, WORKING TO MAINTAIN THE INTEGRITY OF THE GAME.

THIS SEASON, THEY’VE SUSPENDED A NUMBER OF PLAYERS FOR VIOLATING GAMBLING RULES.

AND YET, THEY’RE MAKING MONEY FROM THIS REVENUE, FROM GAMBLING, SPORTS BETTING COMPANIES.

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THAT?

>> YEAH, WELL, YOU MENTION THE WORD INTEGRITY.

THAT HAS BEEN THE MANTRA OF THE NFL SINCE I WAS WORKING IN IT.

EVERY TIME THEY FOUGHT SPORTS BETTING, IT’S THE INTEGRITY, INTEGRITY, INTEGRITY.

WE’VE COME TO A POINT WHERE MONETIZATION HAS OUTDUELED INTEGRITY.

LEAGUES, TEAMS, OWNERS CAN EMBRACE SPORTS BETTING.

THEY’RE INVESTORS IN SPORTS BETTING, FANDUEL, DRAFTKINGS.

THEY SPONSOR EVERY TEAM.

SOME OF THE NFL OWNERS ARE EARLY INVESTORS WITH EQUITY PORTIONS IN THOSE COMPANIES, BUT PLAYERS CAN’T.

AND THAT’S REALLY THE DICHOTOMY WE HAVE HERE, “DO AS I SAY, NOT AS I DO.”

JOHN: THIS PAST WEEK LEADING UP TO THE SUPER BOWL, YOU HAVE THIS SORT OF DICHOTOMY OF THE OBVIOUSLY, THE PLAYERS IN THE SUPER BOWL CAN’T EVEN GO INTO CASINOS, BUT NFL PLAYERS WHO ARE JUST VISITING FOR THE GAME CAN GAMBLE IN CASINOS.

>> YEAH, OF COURSE THE PLAYERS ON THE TEAMS ARE WAY AWAY FROM THE STRIP, BUT COME THE END OF THE GAME ON SUNDAY NIGHT, THEY CAN DO WHATEVER THEY WANT.

THEY CAN BE IN CASINOS, THEY CAN DO APPEARANCES IN CASINOS.

OF COURSE, THEY HAVE TO WALK THROUGH CASINOS TO GET ANYWHERE, BUT THEY CAN’T DO SPORTS BETTING IN THE CASINOS.

IT’S A DELICATE DANCE.

IT’S A PARADOXICAL SITUATION.

IT DOESN’T SEEM TO MAKE SENSE TO THE AVERAGE PERSON, BUT THAT’S THE WAY THE NFL IS TRYING TO SORT OF THREAD THE NEEDLE HERE.

JOHN: IT USED TO BE THAT BROADCASTERS WOULD TALK ABOUT POINT SPREADS IN CODE, WITH A WINK AND A NOD, BUT NOW THEY’RE TALKING ABOUT IT OPENLY ON BROADCAST ON PREGAME SHOWS AND THAT SORT OF THING.

HAS THIS CHANGED THE WAY WE CONSUME SPORTS?

>> IT ABSOLUTELY HAS.

I MEAN, LISTEN, WHAT SPORTS LEAGUES ARE ALWAYS TRYING TO DO IS ATTRACT A YOUNGER, MORE TECHNICAL AUDIENCE.

WHAT BRINGS IN A YOUNGER, MORE TECHNICAL AUDIENCE?

IT’S GAMBLING.

IT’S BETS.

THE AVERAGE NUMBER OF NFL GAMES WATCHED BY A NON BETTOR IS 15.

PRETTY MUCH YOUR HOME TEAM’S GAMES.

THE AVERAGE GAMES WATCHED HER A BETTOR IS 50 GAMES.

THE NFL KNOWS THAT STAT, SO IT IS PUTTING IT OUT THERE IN ALL THE PROGRAMMING.

YOU CAN’T WATCH OR LISTEN TO A SPORTS PROGRAM WITHOUT HAVING BACK.

SO IT IS ALL AROUND US.

IT’S EMBEDDED IN OUR SPORTS CONSCIOUSNESS RIGHT NOW.

JOHN: TO WHAT EXTENT IS THE NFL, OR CAN THE NFL BE SEEN AS ENCOURAGING SPORTS BETTING, AND COULD PEOPLE GET IN OVER THEIR HEADS?

>> THEY RELY ON THIS 2018 SUPREME COURT DECISION.

THEY’RE JUMPING IN JUST LIKE EVERYONE ELSE IS BECAUSE, HEY, IT’S LEGAL AND THERE’S MONETIZATION FROM IT AND WE CAN’T BE BEHIND ANYMORE.

THE PROBLEM IS, WHERE IS THE LINE, AS YOU TALKED ABOUT?

WE’RE NOT ALLOWING PLAYERS TO GAMBLE.

WE’VE HAD PLAYERS SUSPENDED THROUGHOUT THE SEASON FOR BETTING.

SO IT IS STILL THIS, AS I KEEP SAYING THIS, DO AS I SAY, DON’T AS DO AS I DO BECAUSE THE NFL HAS EMBRACED IT.

THEY’RE EMBEDDED IN IT, BUT PLAYERS CANNOT STILL.

JOHN: AS YOU POINT OUT, WE GOT A COUPLE NFL OWNERS WHO HOLD STAKES IN THESE BETTING COMPANIES.

IN THE NBA, YOU’VE GOT THE OWNER OF A CASINO OPERATOR ABOUT TO BUY THE DALLAS MAVERICKS.

WHAT ARE THE DANGERS AND PITFALLS IN THIS?

>> THIS IS SOMETHING THAT IS FRAUGHT WITH POTENTIAL PROBLEMS.

I’VE ALWAYS SAID THESE LEAGUES NEED TO HIRE GAMBLING CZARS THAT REALLY CAN CUT THROUGH ALL OF THE POTENTIAL DIFFICULTIES IN DEALING WITH THIS.

BUT AS I SAID, ONCE THESE LEAGUES PLACED TEAMS IN LAS VEGAS, NOW WE HAVE A SUPER BOWL IN LAS VEGAS.

THEY HAVE EMBRACED THE POTENTIAL FOR A LACK OF INTEGRITY AFTER PROMOTING INTEGRITY IN EVERYTHING THEY DO.

SO THIS IS A DICHOTOMY WE HAVE TO REALLY ASSESS.

JOHN: ANDREW BRANDT OF VILLANOVA UNIVERSITY, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

>> THANK YOU.

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