You Can Bet Legalized Gambling Will Mean More Video Review, $50 M Athletes
It’s been a big week for gambling. The expansion Vegas Golden Knights— home team of the LV sports books— continued hitting blackjack on their way to the Stanley Cup Final.
And, in a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, the ban on sports wagering outside Nevada was struck down. Now states can allow legal spots betting at licensed outlets. (How much online betting will follow is still up for debate). It’s a 1-2 punch with the anticipated legalization of marijuana that bankrupt governments hope will replenish their coffers.
There’s considerable excitement in the gambling community and plenty of questions how this will affect the North American pro sports leagues upon which they rely. Much of the speculation centres on how the leagues— now freed from their puritan stance on the billions in illegal U.S. gambling that has always existed— can monetize the tsunami of cash expected to roll in.
A brief glance at Britain shows how seamless the marriage between gambling and pro sports has become. Teams in the Premiership prominently feature their sponsors in the gambling industry on their jerseys. Sideline and end-zone bet-shop advertising are ubiquitous. The TV networks’ broadcasts of the games are dominated by the gambling message.
NBA and NHL teams have already added discreet advertising to their jerseys from conventional sponsors. So we can expect to see ads for casinos—and the money they bring— added to the home uniforms soon. This additional ad revenue means we are not far from a $50 million athlete in the NBA or MLB or NFL.
One of the great concerns remains how such a close union between the games and the gambling will be monitored. Even with illegal gambling there have been a number of scandals concerning gamblers controlling referees or players. With so much more money to be made the potential for mischief seems great. Even today, suspicious referee calls and player behaviour draws considerable controversy when it affects the line or the totals.
Most now feel that it will be easier to regulate such risk if it is in the open. Anyone contemplating shaving points might think twice if it’s now a subject for halftime shows or play-by-play announcers.
One by-product of the gambling will likely be a greater reliance on technology to officiate the sports. With so much scrutiny on the human element— and its vulnerability to gamblers— how long till MLB adopts the virtual strike zone for balls and strikes? Till the NHL puts chips into pucks to help call goals and offsides?
Till the NFL creates a football that says when it’s been carried over the goal line or kicked between the goal posts? Or the NBA synchs the 24-second clock to the ball or the basket rims? Better to curse a machine than wonder about the fallibility of a human tasked with making calls that shift millions— maybe billions— in bets.
Finally there is the possible impact of this gambling on Canada’s betting schemes. If American sources across the border can suddenly offer better odds and payoffs to Canadians, how will that affect the sports gambling revenues for cash-strapped provinces? The rule of unintended consequences lurks.
It’s been interesting to see the sniping and resentment of some CFL players over the signing of quarterback Johnny Manziel by the Hamilton Tiger Cats. Put aside that the over/ under for the former Heisman Trophy winner returning to Texas is likely Week 3 of the CFL season.
Why would CFL players not want him to bring value to a league that— let’s be honest— lacks star power?
If Manziel is sincere about giving three-down football an honest go he could do for the CFL what Doug Flutie did for the league. His success can legitimize their own success. For a few it might catapult them into the NFL. That means more money and attention. How’s that a bad thing?
And if he does the Vince Ferragamo thing and simply slinks away, what was lost? Rien.
While American commentators spout off about why Johnny Football is a natural for the CFL, three-down football is a unique beast. Jus because Manziel is mobile means little in a league where a sideline pattern can be a 30-yard throw. The route tree is challenging and different. The pace is accelerated.
Playing in adverse weather is another wild card. Flutie had his issues with early Canadian winters till he figured it out.
So let’s see what Manziel has. But giving him the freshman hazing is rube stuff.
Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy.is the host of the podcast The Full Count with Bruce Dowbiggin on his website is Not The Public Broadcaster (http://www.notthepublicbroadcaster.com). He’s also a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada's top television sports broadcaster, he is also the best-selling author whose new book Cap In Hand will be available this fall.