“Only bet what you can afford to lose.”
That’s the message from the National Football League as its betting-company partners aggressively promote legal betting on pro football games.
For years the NFL was adamantly against betting in sports.
In 2012, reports the New York Post, the league’s commissioner Roger Goodell said: “If gambling is permitted freely on sporting events, normal incidents of the game such as bad snaps, dropped passes, turnovers, penalties, and play calling inevitably will fuel speculation, distrust and accusations of point-shaving or game-fixing.”
He was correct.
Look what happened last week in the NFL’s opening game between Detroit and Kansas City.
One receiver dropped five passes, one of which was intercepted and returned for a touchdown — leading some in the Twittersphere to question if something nefarious was up.
So if gambling creates so much distrust among fans, why did the NFL change its position on betting 180 degrees? Can you spell g-r-e-e-d?
Sports gambling only became possible in 2018 when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, a federal law passed in 1992 that made gambling on sports illegal in all but a few states.
With that law struck down, 37 states made sports betting legal — and gambling exploded.
Whereas legal gambling used to require a trip to Las Vegas or Atlantic city, now it takes only a few moments to bet online using your smartphone anytime from anywhere.
The NFL flip-flopped on its anti-gambling position for the simple reason that gambling on its games would generate a lot of new cash for the league and team owners — never mind Goodell’s warning in 2012, and never mind the increased pain and suffering it would cause gambling addicts.
Two years ago, the NFL signed a $1 billion, five-year deal with its betting company partners.
Gambling jumped 40% in the 2022 season and a record 73.5 million Americans — 60% more than last year — plan to bet on NFL games this season, reports the American Gaming Association.
The American Psychological Association reports that though most people can enjoy betting and gambling as harmless entertainment, up to 2% of people are prone to compulsive gambling addiction.
People with other addictions or psychiatric issues (impulse-control, mood disorders, anxiety, etc.) also are even more likely to become compulsive gamblers.
The APA also reports that the poor are more prone to addiction and that men are twice as likely as women to become addicts — particularly young men, who are betting on sports in rapidly growing numbers.
The Mayo Clinic explains that people become gambling addicts much the same way they become addicted to alcohol and drugs: gambling stimulates the brain’s reward system with a sweet hit of dopamine.
But the “responsible” NFL has gambling addicts’ best interests at heart, right?
Its PR department launched a $6.2 million “responsible betting initiative” to help each gambler understand the risks and “only bet what you can afford to lose.”
But according to Forbes, 45% of bettors acknowledge that already this season they are spending more on NFL games than they can afford to lose.
So when so much money is at stake, who can blame the big-shots at the NFL for flip-flopping on gambling?
Like so many shortsighted people running our organizations and institutions, they don’t seem to care that they’re betting on their own futures — and against ours.
Tom Purcell is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review columnist. Send comments to Tom at [email protected]. His opinion does not necessarily represent the views of The Lima News or its owner, AIM Media.