Bill Bradley Is Stuck In The Past And Still Saying Stupid Things About Sports Betting

Written By Grant Lucas | Last Updated
Bill Bradley
William W. Bradley was a US senator for nearly 20 years. He’s Princeton-educated. He’s an inductee of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. He was a two-time NBA champion with the New York Knicks, the AP College Player of the Year and the NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player while at Princeton in 1965. Now, however, Bradley has become Grandpa, listing away in his favorite porch rocking chair, a few whiskeys deep, telling his youngins detailed stories about his time in Nam after he was simply asked if he wanted to go to the park today. In a recent interview with New York City-based magazine The Nation, Bradley loaded up his favorite shotgun and began firing away at sports betting being legalized across the nation. And, boy, are the Knicks glad Bradley wasn’t this erratic in the early 1970s.

Bradley knows enough about sports betting…

The former senator has been around the block a few times and was even the driving force behind the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992. Also dubbed the Bradley Act, PASPA, you may recall, was ruled unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court last month, clearing the path for legalized sports betting on a state-by-state basis. Naturally, Bradley, known as “Dollar Bill” to former Knicks teammates, was not pleased with the SCOTUS decision. “I think it was an unfortunate ruling,” Bradley said. “I think it was a ruling that had no basis in what sport really is. I think that it was, once again, the Supreme Court being kind of nit-picking, and having a small-minded reading of the law, without understanding the implication for society as a whole.” A tad off base? Sure. Still, he appeared poised, calm and eloquent, as a seasoned and relatively well-informed senator should be.

… but Grandpa began rambling.

Each state, Bradley noted, “will have its own (gambling industry). Now you can bet on high-school games. You could bet on AAU games with 14-year olds. You can bet on college games. There’s no prohibition whatsoever. And so various states would have to establish a law, if they wanted to to curb this. If they didn’t you could have betting on anything because the national law says that it’s open.” OK, grampy. Take a breath. Look, Matlock is on. Here’s a Werther’s Original hard candy.
  • Yes, each state will have its own set of rules and regulations when it comes to sports betting. You are correct that the high court essentially waved the national ban to clear the path for individual state legislation.
  • But no to the rest. There will not be (legal) betting on high school or AAU games. Nevada set the tone for that. Heck, in the Garden State, betting on college games has its limitations. New Jersey made that provision clear in its recent sports betting law. Sportsbooks, the bill said, cannot accept wagers “on high school sporting events or collegiate athletic events taking place in New Jersey or involving New Jersey teams.”
Oh, no. Gramps finished his Werther’s and he’s grabbed another dram of Jack Daniel’s.
“It … reminds me of the Voting Rights Case, where (SCOTUS) invalidated Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, on the grounds of, well, there is no discrimination anymore. And thus was born the movement to suppress votes in this country. The day after the Supreme Court ruled on that issue, because there was no more discrimination, North Carolina and Texas passed laws that were extremely discriminatory. If you take what Koch state legislatures have done between 2012 and 2014, in 41 states, they introduced roughly 120 laws to narrow who could vote and how people could vote. So, this is the same kind of thing, in my view. It’s with no understanding what is going to be the impact on society. The court says, ‘Well, this is really a state issue.’”
Lost? You’re not alone. Dumb it down a bit: Bradley basically just tied sports betting and vote discrimination by saying SCOTUS decided, “This is really a state issue.” Bradley likened placing money down on a sporting event to rigging a democratic system. You know, like how going to grab a slice of pizza from down the street is the same thing as being the leader of a dog-fighting ring? Because, hey, that’s a personal issue.

Sports betting is all about “dollar signs”

When SCOTUS struck down PASPA, the ruling was met mostly with praise and celebration. It was the start of a new era, and excitement began to grow. Bradley was not a party-goer, however. He was more the dorm RA making several phone calls to campus police. Why does Bradley believe there were few dissenters? “Because people see dollar signs,” he said. “I mean, the whole casino industry could disguise itself, and states will buy the argument that this will generate so much revenue, that this will allow them to take care of small children and the elderly. But it’s an illusion.” How Bradley, who is the managing director for a privately held investment bank, can forecast such a bleak future is dumbfounding. He expects scandal. He expects cloak-and-dagger, emphasis on the dagger. But again, go back to the bills, which specifically note where revenue goes. New Jersey, for example, will tax sports betting revenue and put them in a general fund before redistributing portions of that to local municipalities where sports betting takes place. A sort-of thank you card for supporting the industry. Pennsylvania expects to take a similar approach, funneling taxed revenue into a “local share assessment” that aims to help law enforcement.

Speaking of scandal…

Bradley is stuck in the past. As a result, the glass is not half empty, it’s drained and dried. He said legalized sports betting turns each athlete into “a roulette chip.” He believes players will be pawns with which shady individuals can make moves to maximize their winnings, like the Boston College men’s basketball team in the late 1970s. “Obviously, there are people that gamble on sports,” Bradley said. “But there’s a difference between trying to do it in the dark world and suddenly having the whole thing opened up and everybody contemplating this, right? You know, you go to a game and suddenly you’re cheering for your home team and you’re ahead by eight points. Then you miss a shot, and everybody cheers! Because the spread was seven points. I just don’t buy it.”

Lastly, ignorance and contradiction

Bradley is adamant about one thing: Nobody’s betting to begin with, so why should it be legal? “I don’t buy the argument that people are doing it anyway,” he said, “because people aren’t doing it.” Tell that to the estimated $50 billion to $60 billion made in illegal sports wagers, according to Eilers & Krejcik Gaming. People are certainly betting. Hence why Delaware basically doubled its population for one day last week when it legalized sports betting. The tastiest bites from this entire interview were buried within several rants. One comes after Bradley firmly expressed his dislike for legalized sports betting in general … then said, “I think it should be only pros.” It was like he was rambling, had an out-of-body experience listening to himself, leaned into real-body’s ear and convinced himself that placing wagers is actually fine, but then real-body decided not to completely contradict himself and only allow betting on pro sports. Bradley’s train wreck of an interview concluded with one of the fundamentally absurd statements of the entire sit-down: “I hope that somebody out there is listening to this, because, I think the only people that are happy here are the casino people.” Here, Dollar Bill. Let me leave you with a few thoughts from state officials and commonfolk: “It’s a great thing for a lot of people,” Chase Burrell, a Delaware bettor, told ESPN after the state legalized sports betting. “You’ve already seen a handful of states that have passed and enacted laws,” said Sara Slane, a senior vice president at the American Gaming Association. “It makes it crystal clear that there’s obviously excitement about the opportunity to launch sports betting.” “Today, we’re finally making the dream of legalized sports betting a reality for New Jersey,” New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said in a statement Monday. “I’m thrilled to sign Assembly Bill 4111 because it means that our casinos in Atlantic City and our racetracks throughout our state can attract new business and new fans, boosting their own long-term financial prospects. This is the right move for New Jersey and it will strengthen our economy.”