The sports betting industry was probably smiling when the NFL allowed the Oakland Raiders to move to Las Vegas.
That grin is no doubt halfway to a scowl laden in bitterness and outrage after a choice quote from an anonymous NFL owner who told the Wall Street Journal that it’s just not fair that bettors make money off NFL sports betting without paying a cut to the league.
Here’s a direct quote of said owner, according to WSJ reporter Andrew Beaton: “Why would we let other people have all the benefit of something we’re creating?”
While the anonymous owner provided no specific percentage of what they’d want from the handle (amount bet) on NFL games, the NBA and MLB appeared before New York lawmakers to ask for 1% of the handle of any bets made on their games.
NFL’s Cheeky Response Smacks of Entitlement … and Good Sense
Let’s be clear, here. The NFL has not said that they want a cut of NFL betting handle. In fact, as recently as Dec. 2017, Commissioner Roger Goodell made it clear that the league wants to preserve its integrity, a refrain he’s repeated on multiple occasions.
There’s some debate about what “preserve its integrity” means — tight regulations, or a flat-out rejection of legalized sports betting? With a team moving to Las Vegas, the former seems to be the likely outcome.
This, of course, leads us to the anonymous owner’s comments. He thinks the NFL is entitled to a gambling cut because they are responsible for the very popularity that sports books (legal and illegal) leverage into absurd amounts of betting.
Now, as repulsive as that might seem – the NBA won no fans by proposing a 1% take – it also makes good business sense for the league; ask for 1% and a “No” is the worst outcome.
Asking for a Cut of the Handle Is More Complex Than You Think
It’s easy to reduce “asking for a cut” to a yes-or-no type discussion. However, the debate needs to be seen in the bigger picture.
First, the NFL probably isn’t going to ask all states at one time to surrender 1% of their gambling handle. Such an ask would be impossible at worst – it’s not guaranteed every state will allow sports betting – and lazy at best.
They’d have to knock on the door of every state legislature and ask for a few minutes before lawmakers to plead their case. And, says Michelle Minton, senior fellow at Competitive Enterprise Institute, there’s a good chance that only states with a considerable interest in NFL games will want to pay what amounts to, in her words, “rent”.
While Minton did not mention any specific states, a few come to mind: California (four teams at the time of publishing), Florida (three teams), Texas (two teams) and Pennsylvania (two teams).
Regardless of whether a state has an acute interest in currying favor with the league or not is beside the point, Minton said. In her opinion, no sports league should be given the power of taking a substantial integrity fee.
“It puts (the NFL) on an unequal footing for future regulation. They can strongarm (states) by saying, ‘Hey, we won’t let you take bets on games,” Minton said. “If (the league) has the power to decide which games the industry take bets on, they could, say, ‘We won’t let you ever take bets on any game.’ I don’t think that any entity should have that kind of power.”