Legalized gambling is going to be a boon for every league in the United States. We aren’t even talking straight revenues from gambling itself — as the NBA suggested recently. We are talking about higher engagement, more casino and gambling site partnership dollars, and everything else that goes along with fans tossing a few dollars on the game. The NBA has come out and said they want one-percent of the top line gambling numbers to ensure the integrity of the game. The NFL just provided their owners with a secret study on the effects of gambling. Now, players unions want to get in on the action — pun intended.
Players need to be involved because teams and the leagues will be making money off their sport. Players are already entitled to a cut of their sports’ generated revenue. There’s no debate there. Any deal revenue generated from gambling is sports’ generated revenue. The debate is how the players unions should address their involvement when it comes to legalized gambling revenues, and how much they should be publicly pushing for gambling proceeds to line their pockets. It’s simply about perception.
Enough fans think that leagues are out to get their team and often claim games are fixed. At one point, the Patriots were part of a grand conspiracy by the NFL to make sure the team won games. Yes, the team that has been punished more than any other team in all U.S. professional sports was being propped up by fixed games to make sure the NFL got high ratings. Logic doesn’t matter when it comes to sports, especially when it comes to diehard fans. If the integrity of the game is important when it comes to gambling, the players need to lay low when it comes to wanting a piece of that revenue. Players should still benefit, but they need to do so in a less public fashion.
Again, they should go get their money. They should be paid for their likeness. People will be betting on specific player props and not just game totals, moneylines, and spreads. There are multiple ways to track bets so unions should be negotiating for a higher percentage of player prop bets if they can. Unions already have deals with daily fantasy sites — which as we said many times is a form of gambling — so they should be able to make deals with gambling sites and casinos just like teams.
But it needs to be done with a fine eye turned toward their involvement and public perception. If the NFL has to pay to monitor suspicious bets, the NFLPA should be involved in that as well. Unions need to accept some cost burden to maintain the idea that the players are just as concerned about game fixing and illegal activities as the leagues are. They can want in on the benefits, but they need to be ready to accept the challenges and drawbacks.
Plain and simple, players — or star players that would be involved in player props — aren’t going to fix games because it would come at too high of a consequence. They’d lose their job — which is high paying — they’d become pariahs, and it’s simply not fiscally worth it. That message needs to be said over a million times before the general conspiracy theory fan accepts it.
Players should be able to benefit. Union leaders should push for a higher percentage of the cut on player props or any bet that involves single players rather than the team or outcome as a whole. It’s the smart business move to attempt. But the unions need to be more wary about public perception when it comes to gambling than the leagues.