How can NFL reconcile loving Las Vegas and loathing betting lines?

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A mere four years ago, the NFL wanted nothing to do with staging any games in Las Vegas. Then, once Las Vegas emerged as a viable candidate to lure the Raiders from Oakland, the nation’s gambling capital suddenly became acceptable for at least 10 NFL games per year.

No one seems to be troubled (or even curious) by the about-face. Indeed, hardly anyone ever questions how and why it happened — especially since Commissioner Roger Goodell insists that the league can shift its attitude toward Las Vegas without shifting its attitude toward gambling.

“We’re obviously very sensitive to that, but we’re also going to evaluate the Raiders case on the relocation application in what’s in the overall best interests of the league,” Goodell told reporters in January. “But one thing we can’t ever do is compromise on the game. That’s one of the things we’ll do is to make sure the policies we’ve created, if we did in any way approve the Raiders, I don’t see us compromising on any of the policies.”

Compare that to this shrug of the shoulders from an unnamed AFC owner in comments made to Albert Breer of

“From a gambling standpoint? That’s a joke to even say that’d be a problem,” the unnamed owner told Breer. “That was an issue decades ago. Now? Sports gambling is going to be legal. We might as well embrace it and become part of the solution, rather than fight it. It’s in everyone’s best interests for it to be above-board.”

And so it could be that, just as abruptly as the league pulled a 180 on Vegas, the league may abruptly flip its flop on gambling. Which could make it much harder for the league to continue to sue each and every state that tries to adopt betting on sports.

“We oppose further state-operated gambling on individual NFL games because it presents a threat to the integrity of those games and to the long-term relationship between the NFL and its fans,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in 2009, as the NFL fought to keep sports betting out of Delaware. “If you make it easier for people to gamble then more people will. This would increase the chances for people to question the integrity of the game. Those people who are upset will question whether an erroneous officiating call or dropped pass late in the game resulted from an honest mistake or an intentional act by a corrupt player or official.”

Those people who are upset will question whether an erroneous officiating call or dropped pass late in the game resulted from an honest mistake or an intentional act by a corrupt player or official.

The owners who will convene in Arizona this weekend should consider that quote and ask themselves that question, especially with more than 50 players eventually living in a place where gambling will be everywhere they go.

While putting a team in a place where gambling is legal is technically different than embracing gambling, “Las Vegas” and “gambling” are too synonymous to permit the average perception-is-reality fan to engage in the mental gymnastics necessary to tell the difference between the two. Which precisely why, as recently as 2013, the league shunned Vegas.

Even without the quote from the unnamed AFC owner, it was going to be very hard to remove the stigma of gambling from the dropping of a franchise into Las Vegas. That quote will make it damn near impossible — especially as more and more similar quotes are harvested on- and off-the-record as reporters descend on Arizona to (hopefully) ask pointed questions about how the NFL plans to walk the tightrope between loving Las Vegas and loathing betting lines.

54 responses to “How can NFL reconcile loving Las Vegas and loathing betting lines?

  1. Sports Betting is everywhere with the internet, not just in Las Vegas It isn’t 1985. You can place a wager on any game in seconds from anywhere in America. A player playing in Oakland can just as easily throw a game as a player playing in Vegas

  2. FanDuel and Draft Kings…. Remember all those commercials?…this was their precursor… Some of the benefactors and investors include Kraft and Jones…do you really think they care about this? Do you actually think it’s not just about the money? They pay Pinocchio to put on a good front…they are loving Vegas

  3. Being that you can place a bet anywhere in America; Las Vegas is still the Mecca of gambling. Integrity and honor does not rhyme with Las Vegas. Corruption and Sin rhyme with Vegas.

    Gambling isn’t really my concern. I have questions about the integrity of the league without the Las Vegas factor.

    The main concern is that a transient city like Vegas can not sustain a NFL franchise. You can talk about the people who will travel from LA and the I.E., but the Raiders only drew 35k when playing right in the Los Angeles market once they became a mediocre team. A team that couldn’t survive in the #2 market and claims they can’t survive in the #4 or #6 market will not surivice in Vegas.

  4. The NFL doesn’t hate gambling. The NFL loves gambling. They just can’t advertise it because they don’t want to lose their antitrust exemption.

  5. The whole gambling in Vegas being a concern angle is ridiculous. Let’s not be quite so naive. We are talking about a league that publishes injury reports to negate the value of inside info. People already bring up questionable calls on this site and elsewhere every week of the season as perhaps relating to money changing hands. Gambling happens everywhere, legal or not. Why is it somehow more likely some nefarious type of activity would happen in a place where gambling is legal than in a place where it is not? Wouldn’t the inverse seem a lot more likely? It’s not like the Mirage is going to attempt to fix a game, lol

  6. Gambling on sports is like a national past time in England. They bet on anything and everything. And it’s legal. Yet the NFL thinks nothing of playing games in England. And want to increase the number of games played in England.

  7. I don’t need to have money on a game to question a Referees call or the cliff dive play of a player in any week….we are all at times asking that question.
    Perhaps it’s as simple as the NFL and Vegas sports books deciding how much of the collusion bedsheets they are willing to shed.

  8. They’ve already embraced, or at the very least tolerate gambling on NFL games. Why else are teams forced to release injury reports every week? It’s easier to handicap games and create betting lines.

  9. I’d be willing to bet that gambling had a lot to do with growing the NFL. Especially in its early stages. Wouldn’t surprise me if gambling is a big reason the NFL is so popular in England.

  10. Even if the games were decided by corrupt officiating, it doesn’t necessarily mean you would lose your bet. It’s still a theoretical 50/50 proposition, minus juice; same as honest officiating would be. The refs will throw some games your way and steal just as many from you, which makes it a mathematical wash. I’m good with that. (I’d be even better with it if I were a bookmaker who has the ref’s cell phone number.)

  11. Fantasy football has turned one team casual fans into full product consumers and the NFL is well aware that the majority aren’t playing for bragging rights.

  12. Come on man!

    Sports betting is a cell phone call away. This is a non-issue regarding the Raiders relocation. It’s all about the money, honey. Always has been, always will be.

  13. It’s this sort of thing that makes me think if the Raiders move is approved, there’ll be a proviso that they rename to the Nevada Raiders rather than Las Vegas Raiders, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they left the Raider name and such in Oakland in much the same way the Ravens left the Browns name and history in Cleveland when they left.

  14. There is no conflict of interest. End of day there is a sports book in Vegas now; whether or not there is a team there there will be a sports book in Vegas tomorrow.

  15. They hate betting lines only because they can’t capitalize on it. With a footprint in Las Vegas, maybe they’ll find a way to make money off of it while keeping the game clean from point shaving.

  16. The NFL doesn’t loathe sports betting. They loathe anyone making money on the NFL other than the NFL. If you’re in the minority that think the NFL doesn’t fix games themselves, I have some ocean front property in Arizona to sell you.

  17. The short answer is the NFL does not really have a problem with gambling. They just don’t like the perception that the league may be corrupt.

    The main reason the NFL has embraced Las Vegas (at least for now) is because there is no more Los Angeles to hold over the heads of local officials afraid of losing their teams and ultimately their voters. They need something to squeeze Oakland. If Oakland manages to save their team then the next bad stadium team will get on the Vegas train. Once a team finally moves to Las Vegas (either the Raiders soon or some other team later) the league will move on to another leverage city like San Antonio.

  18. Ceasar’s just opened a new book, 3/5 on when the Raiders flame out in Vegas, they will wind up in Mexico. Man, I am so on this! The line is still open, jump on it!

  19. What is going to be the more interesting situation??

    The NFL & Raiders In Vegas?

    Or When the Browns sign Kaepernick??

    I can’t wait this is going to be great!!

  20. What is going to be the more interesting situation??

    The NFL & Raiders In Vegas?

    Or When the Browns sign Kaepernick??

    I can’t wait this is going to be great!!

  21. The NFL is already corrupt. Remember Defensive Holding Gate? It opened the door to the Sea Hogs winning their one and only SB because of officiating. I still remember those bogus roughing penalties called against the 49ers during that same year, one of them resulting in a loss to New Orleans, and that was the difference between the Niners having home field advantage throughout and having to play the NFC CG in Seattle.

  22. I just placed a bet, $100, that the Raiders will win a playoff game in the next 20 years. I had to put my 74 240Z up for security interest. Cum on Reggie, let’s do this!

  23. The Fremont and Stardust, the last mob-connected casinos, lost their gambling licenses in 1983. Since then gambling in Vegas is owned by corporations and smaller, local companies with no known connection to criminal activities. The NFL itself has been involved in fantasy football, which attorney generals from several states have declared to be gambling enterprises. There is no logical reason why the league should not allow the Raiders or any other team to move to La Vegas.

  24. Raiders will never leave behind the name. Fiercest logo in league/most recognizable. Browns had no logo and the name sucked. Thank God Baltimore left it in Cleveland. No way they aren’t still the Raiders

  25. The NFL and the other hypocritical sports leagues fought tooth and nail to prevent NJ from legalizing sports betting.

  26. This probably the best situation for the NFL to shine bright in Las Vegas. The Raiders nation travels and being so close to their original home, it would probably double their popularity which is hard to fathom. I know I will watch them……but don’t think problems involving sports betting won’t rise substantially as a by product.

  27. All those years on CBS’s pregame NFL show, Jimmy the Greek would tell viewers that Oakland was favored by three or Dallas by six and a half. What, they didn’t know where those numbers came from? Please.

    The NFL’s symbiotic relationship with gambling helped it become the number one sport. They have to put up a front of being like victorian era women who get a case of the vapors at the thought of wagering. Actually they’re more like Gambino family capos looking to up the vig if at all possible.

  28. You must have had your pockets picked pretty bad on a trip to Vegas Florio. This move that has been a done deal for awhile now really bothers you. Four years ago in today’s World might as well be 50, gambling is everywhere. You have been wrong every step of the way on your reporting on the Vegas move, buggy whips use to be a big seller, time moves on my friend, Las Vegas Raiders look out

  29. “..especially with more than 50 players eventually living in a place where gambling will be everywhere they go.”

    Uh, no. There are not that many sports books in Vegas, not every casino has one, and none of the smaller joints do. It’s an easy argument to say that access to sports gambling is just as easy from anywhere as it is in Vegas, since it can now be done online quite easily.

    Corruption? With the “quality” (I use the term loosely) of officiating being so incredibly bad that game-changing blown calls that a 6-year-old could have gotten right are shrugged off as “no big deal”, it would be very easy for 4-5 refs to be on the take right now. They make an egregiously bad call, and there’s absolutely no repercussion – Blindino® just comes out Monday morning and says they blew the call, carry on. WTH is that??

  30. I can’t wait to see how this turns out…people are gonna have to be honest with themselves and there gonna make movies about this team because of this very fact.
    This is not going to end well for any team in any sport. It will seep in. People are weak.

  31. As with everything that Goodell says, it depends solely on what he thinks middle America wants to hear

  32. I’ve never understood this line of thinking. I don’t get it. I can place a bet in Vegas on any team, whether they are based a mile down the road or in Morocco. Further, I can place a bet in Vegas from anywhere on earth. There has been sports betting in Vegas and always will be whether a team plays there or not. A team playing down the road doesn’t alter that reality.

  33. The naivete regarding gambling is astounding. I thought everyone knew that it’s the point spread that made the NFL what it is today.

  34. A lot of people like to drink, and a lot of people like to gamble. These behaviors used to be kept in the closet, but sports allow them to be consumed right out in the open. I guy sitting around drinking all weekend doesn’t look very good, but if football is on TV, it’s a much better look. Same deal with gambling. The biggest reason they’re still keeping Pete Rose out of the baseball HOF is because of the strangle hold big gambling has over baseball. That’s also the reason the NFL came own on Tom Brady for tampering with the footballs. Sure it’s just a game to most fans, but there is a ton of money being bet on football games.

  35. I’d put the O/U on the Tim Donaghy effect at 3.5 games from the start of the Vegas Raiders first game.

    This is the cherry on top of the NFL fraudulent integrity Sundae..

  36. With a team in Vegas we will see the arrests increase and a lot of players ending up with gambling addictions but it’s all about the Benjamin’s not protecting its players.

  37. “The owners who will convene in Arizona this weekend should consider that quote and ask themselves that question, especially with more than 50 players eventually living in a place where gambling will be everywhere they go.”

    Why not mention coaches, trainers, “team” doctors, etc. They could just as easily, and perhaps more easily, affect the outcome of a game as could any one player. As could owners and administrators on all levels. Any of these people may be, or could become, addicted to gambling and find themselves in a situation where the only way to cover their debts is to influence a game.

    I couldn’t care less where the Raiders play, but I’m on record as believing that this is an absolutely INSANE move on the part of the NFL. Not to mention a hypocritical, two-faced, greed-based decision!

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