The National Football League (NFL) has been around for almost a century, but gambling on sports has been around much longer than that. In fact, the first football pools were held in 1934, long before the NFL was even registered as a trademark.
The roots of modern sports betting can be traced back to the early 20th century, when states began legalizing sports betting and bookmakers set up shop in the back offices of horse-racing tracks. It wasn’t until the 1960s that states began moving toward regulating sports betting, and by the 1980s it was completely legal in all 50 states.
Even when sports betting was still considered a crime in some parts of the country, people were finding ways to place bets and get odds. If you wanted to place a bet on the Super Bowl back in the 1960s, for example, you would have gone to a bookmaker at a local bar or hotel after the game and placed your bet. If your team won, the bookmaker would have given you your winnings at the end of the night – either in cash or through credit cards – and you would not have registered the credit card with any financial institution.
In the 1990s, as the Internet began to take over the world and allow for much more convenient communication, online wagering on sporting events became a reality. This new way of placing bets required a new method of taking them, as well. For years, people had been wiring money to other countries, taking advantage of the different laws regarding online gambling. But the spread of the Internet and increasing international regulation changed all that, and in the 2000s online sports betting became a legitimate way of doing business.
How Global Online Sports Betting Differs From Local Barrooms
When it comes to electronic sports betting, or eSports betting, as it’s known today, there are numerous differences between legal online betting and illegal barroom betting. The biggest difference is location. While you can still find bookmakers at the local bar waiting to take your wager, legally operating online bookmakers require an almost international perspective. This is because when you place a wager online, it’s done electronically. And no matter where you are in the world, you can always find a way to do business with a bookmaker you’ve never heard of, which is exactly what makes online betting so unique.
Another significant difference between online and barroom betting is the line. With online betting, it’s virtually impossible to predict the outcome of a game with any degree of confidence. This means there is no line to lay money on, regardless of whether you’re playing Blackjack or Roulette. The house edge is in effect regardless of whether you win or lose, which means you’re never truly risking money on an online wager. This is in stark contrast to the barroom, where you have a strong likelihood of knowing who’s going to win. This is largely thanks to the lines, which are determined by pre-game polls and predictions from experts and can be found printed in newspapers or magazines across the country.
In the world of barroom betting, everyone knows the line. If you want to place a dollar bet on the game between the Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots in the 2018 NFL season, for example, you would go to the bar, place your wager with the bartender, and he or she would give you your winnings at the end of the night, no questions asked. The chance of getting your money back is virtually non-existent. This is why, even when states legalized sports betting, bookmakers had to operate above-board. They couldn’t continue to operate in the shadows, as they had for years before the 21st century.
How the NFL Fought Back
Legalizing sports betting was a monumental step for states, as it provided them with an additional source of revenue. But it wasn’t long before the NFL – and other professional sports leagues – began exploring ways to combat the spread of illegal sports betting. And this is where things get interesting.
The NFL is one of the most iconic sporting leagues in the world, synonymous with success, glamour, and big-game viewership. It’s also one of the most profitable sports leagues as well, generating millions of dollars in annual revenue. Its top football franchises are among the most valuable in the world; the New England Patriots alone are valued at over $9 billion.
Prior to the 2010s, the NFL had mostly stayed out of the betting business, content to let barrooms and online bookmakers operate as they pleased.
But the league saw the writing on the wall. The revenue and economic benefits that legal sports betting brought with it was too great for the NFL to ignore. And to be fair, this is a league that will embrace new things, especially when it comes to business. After all, the NFL is a league that regularly employs former high-ranking executives from other professional leagues, such as the NCAA and the NBA. They’re always looking for new ideas to help them make more money.
So in the 2010s, as states started legalizing and regulating sports betting and looking for ways to tax and monetize the activity, the NFL got in on the action. It established the NFL Trust, which was essentially designed to combat the spread of illegal sports betting by putting a stop to it once and for all. Its stated aim was to put an end to the “grabbag” – a combination of “gambling” and “football” – wherever it appears and to shut down all unlicensed and illegal sportsbooks.
The Trust’s efforts started small, with enforcement actions taken against only two illegal sportsbooks. But over the next few years, as states legalized and regulated sports betting, the Trust began taking a more aggressive approach. By 2018, it had shut down over 900 illegal sportsbooks in all – almost entirely eliminating the black market. The vast majority of these were located in countries where sports betting is widely considered illegal, such as the United States.
The Undoing Of The NFL’s Hard-Fought Progress
While the NFL has largely eliminated the black market, it’s not without its challenges. One of the biggest problems it faces today is determining what to do about its member teams that are involved in sports betting scandals. This is a difficult issue for any sports league, but it’s particularly challenging for the NFL, as it deals with issues of integrity, competitiveness, and greed within its own ranks.
The issue of integrity and competitiveness comes into play when you consider the financial benefits that come along with winning the NFL draft. For example, if the Los Angeles Rams win the draft lottery and draft a quarterback with the number one overall pick, the franchise would receive a large financial windfall, as it would then be able to negotiate a lucrative contract with the quarterback. Even if the Rams lose the quarterback battle and don’t end up signing him, they would still come away with a lot of money from the trade – as much as $12 million, according to one estimate.
The greed issue arises because – thanks in part to the NFL’s aggressive crackdown on illegal sports betting – some teams have begun operating in the gray area, betting on games they’re not officially affiliated with. The New England Patriots, for example, are often criticized for being overly aggressive in its efforts to place illegal wagers. And it’s not just the Patriots. Similar situations arise with the Dallas Cowboys and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as well as many other teams across the league. There’s also the issue of whether or not teams should even be allowed to participate in the betting, given that the punishment for doing so is typically only a partial stadium ban.
To combat this, the NFL is currently exploring a new model of legal sports betting, one that would allow it to maintain a relationship with its fans while also seeking to put a stop to these kinds of issues. One possible solution would be for the league to create a new set of teams, located in cities where sports betting is legal. Essentially, these would be a mix of legal and illegal teams, much like real life, with the potential to create a world champion that fans and players can be proud of.