Reviews | The NFL bets on bets
Wingo told me, “At the end of the day, after the Supreme Court ruling, the NFL was really good at three things. First, they have a product that you just can’t get enough of. Second, they know how to market it in hell. Third, they know how to make money. And once that thing opened up, they knew there was money to be made. And the NFL is a money making machine.
Wingo himself recently joined Caesars Sportsbook as trend director and brand ambassador. He told me that he felt his work had changed little from his work with ESPN. He’s still the “why” guy, explaining to an audience on his podcast and YouTube how a player’s stats and performance can influence his performance on a Sunday (or Thursday or Monday). But regarding the game, he said, “We can talk about it now. It’s a little more open.
A historical aside: the game was part of the NFL when it was founded. Rumor has it that Steelers founder Art Rooney kept the team afloat in the 1930s with gambling gains, and Giants founder Tim Mara was a successful bookmaker. Even the basic aspects of game operations – like the weekly injury report teams are required to submit to the league – arguably made for the benefit of the Vegas casinos looking to set the lines and determine which teams they think they will win and by how much.
But despite the origins of gambling in the game, betting on the NFL, if they did occur, was heavily discouraged by the league, which means that it has been largely kept a secret, an activity only for the Mafiosi and the Very Sad.
Some with close ties to the league are not happy with the changes in recent years. During a conference call with journalistsFormer Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy has said he does not support the NFL’s new betting stance. “I don’t think we should be encouraging people who watch the NFL to play, especially young people,” he said. “I have boys and I want them to enjoy the game for what it is, its exhilarating side and that sort of thing.”
There are two main concerns about legalized sports betting and the NFL: first, that the game itself could be corrupted if players, coaches, or referees “fix” games to help players, and second, that users may risk being corrupted. develop a gambling addiction with the prevalence of so many betting options.
Wingo told me he hopes legalized sports betting will actually help prevent players (or coaches) from intentionally trying to score fewer points or lose games. He gave me the example of a 2007 tennis match organized in Europe, where in-game betting is much more common than in the United States. After noticing suspicious activity – namely, a lot of money coming in favor of a player who was already losing – bookmaker Betfair halted all transactions and informed ATP of their concerns.