Football and Gambling: Who’s Ready To Ship It?

-John Turner

Since May of 2018 we’ve seen several states now legalize gambling on sports and this past election several more vote to approve it. With fantasy football now a household game played by families, co-workers, and friends, there’s no denying that it’s one of the driving reasons casual fans watch the game. Some like to play the odds, some like to play the over/under, some like to player the money line, and some like to parlay all three in a variety of ways. With so many ways to bet on the game of football and the revenue stream that comes with it, there’s no doubt as to why states across the country are starting to come around to offering it. After all, even if they didn’t, the average fan will still find a way to scratch an itch. In this article we’ll be looking at the impact of gambling on the game has as well as some of the pros and cons of opening it up across the country.

photo credit: ESPN

Several states now offer gambling and this article from ESPN does a great job breaking down the level that each state offers it. Some allow both in person and mobile betting. Some down allow certain or all bets on in state college games. Some states have in person but no mobile betting, and some, like in the case of South Dakota and Tennessee, have mobile but no in person. It would seem to me that it’s likely a matter of time before the vast majority of states approve it and are up and running. The only questions remaining are, how good or bad is it for the game, and how can we know the fix isn’t in?

Carsten Koerl, owner of Sportradar. photo credit: CBC

Recently Sportico put out an article on fraud detection through match fixing and spot fixing, that you can view here. It essentially explains that the company Sportradar will be offering their services for a variety of leagues for a free trial run that will monitor betting patterns and betting lines in order to detect suspicious activity. An example would be a line for a game makes a drastic change just before game time swaying a great advantage to the house, which has already taken in quite a few bet in the other direction. This unfair house advantage bis nothing new. They aren’t able to keep those fancy light bulbs on in Vegas by losing all the time, no do they?

photo credit: NFL

One of the many examples of “match fixing” is easy to detect. Say Tom Brady, who had been healthy all week, while the Buccaneers were favored by 13.5 over Jaguars shows up on the “probable” list on a Friday. Friday in the news and sports industry is known as “bad news dump day”, because it allows stories that would be normally bigger to slip under the radar since people are less likely to be paying attention. By the time Monday rolls around the news has been buried under an entire weekend of events, so it gets lost in the shuffle. So more than likely not many eyes would bat at TB12 landing on the probable list.

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Keep ind mind now that the house has been taking action all week on Tampa being a heavy favorite. Saturday Tom Terrific is downgraded to “questionable”. Well, we’ve seen this dog and pony show before haven’t we? After all, Bill Belichick had Tommy Touchdowns on the injury report for a few years in a row at one point. But lo and behold we wake up Sunday morning to see that he has been ruled out for the game, along with Leonard Fournette and Mike Evans, who were held out of a couple practices during the week. Now my friends, this is where it gets interesting.

photo credit: Legit Gambling Sites

The line drops down to 1.5 in favor of the Bucs, and betters are scrambling to either double down to make up for an almost certain opening line loss, or they are betting heavy on the other side now. The big thing to know is that oddsmakers likely knew of TB12’s injury all week but didn’t change the number until public information surfaced. That in a nutshell is match fixing.

photo credit: ABC7 Chicago

“Spot fixing” is similar but different. Arnold Rothstein is mostly known for being the architect of rigging the 1919 World Series, which inspired the film “Eight Men Out”, about the Chicago Black Sox and “Shoeless” Joe Jackson. This is an extreme case but there’s likely been thousands of instances over the years we never know about. With prop bets a major part of sports betting, who’s to say that Derrick Henry, who had an over/under of 78.5 yards for the game against the Colts didn’t have his wife lay a heavy on the under… I mean he magically left the game with a sore groin in the 3rd quarter when he was at 71 at the time. Lots to think about there.

Some pretty alarming numbers on that there chart if you ask me. It’s said that match and spot fixing is typically more often found in lower leagues where less eyes are on the games. Makes sense, because larger leagues being caught up in fraud would cripple fan moral as well as impact sponsorships. However lesser known leagues that still pay professional salaries seem to be more often the ones with their hands in the cookie jar, however due to their popularity, it mostly flies under the radar. Perhaps they’re trying to catch up with the Jones’. With gambling on the rise in so many states we should expects these types of numbers to be on the rise.

photo credit: The Good Fight

Pete Rose is another guy that has been indefinitely banned from baseball for betting on the game while serving as a manager and a player. Many think he should be allowed in the Hall of Fame at this point and I’m one of them, but he is still in exile. How can we really know players and coaches, or possibly referees and even owners don’t lay coin? Anyone remember the name Tim Donaghy? He made a pretty good part time living betting games he officiated in the NBA and was eventually caught. Players and coaches along with all others tied to their sport that aren’t allowed to wager it though can simply have a friend or family member do it for them. While I’d like to sit and think every person involved in an organization is far too honest for that, reality has shown us very different results time after time.

photo credit: Forbes

If I’m a defensive backs on a team up by two out on defense with the opponent beginning a drive, couldn’t I easily give up a couple horrible penalties to put the other team in an easy position to win? Does anyone remember the 0 coverage blitz at the end of the Raiders Jets game this past season? Or how about some games where a team is running or passing the ball with great success in the first half, only to come out and do the opposite and lose the game in the second? These are very difficult thoughts to have and require concrete evidence to prove the assumption of Tom Foolery.

photo credit: Reddit

But here we are on the doorstep of allowing more betters than ever before to play the game of chance. That means more fantasy leagues, more survival leagues, more parlays, more shows that offer betting expertise, more venues to sit and watch all the action as the house takes all the action. It’s already been estimated that the NFL’s revenue will likely climb around $2.3 billion a year with legal betting and as usual you can expect approximately a 12.5% increase yearly. So if you think players and owners make too much now… just wait, there’s more.

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Fantasy Football platforms along pay millions in rights fees to the NFL just for the image and logos. They pay millions more in data for real time statistical updates. I know this because I actually wanted to offer pick’ems and our very own AFW fantasy leagues, but when I found out how much it was to actually build and launch, that let me know why only the big companies offer it. NFL, FanDuel,Yahoo, ESPN, CBS, etc… not exactly the other 98%. As the industry grows these company will become mega giants and although smaller companies will try to get in on the action, most will already be priced out by the time they try. It’s likely that entities offering in person betting will get sponsorships from these big platforms to use their data and software exclusively as well. Kinda like how McDonald’s ha coke and Arby’s has Pepsi.

photo credit: STATSports

Another fun thing that’s likely around the corner is the GPS player tracking software to likely be slowly floated out into the public for more analytical type bets. How fast can the edge rusher get to the quarterback, Kittle vs Kelce yards after the catch, and or a players receiving yards over under based on the analytics of the opposing coverage. So many more options are coming at us soon and it will open the door for so much potential fraud. Last but certainly not least… with NIL(name, image, and likeness) coming to college sports pretty soon, and if you didn’t know it’s very likely that student athletes will be sellable to be paid for they NIL starting this fall, how can we be so sure as to assume a kid that doesn’t get an endorsement deal won’t take his frustrations out on the books? I’m not talking about his school books either!!!

photo credit: twitter

Anyway… I can’t wait to lay a bet or two… It’s a Football World, we’re all just passing through.

Check out our latest silly business on our last episode here: Around A Football World… In About An Hour

feature photo credit: Action Network