One NFL Betting Situation Is Not Like The Other | Sports Betting News Today | LSR Podcast 197
Join us today on the Legal Sports Report podcast for the latest sports betting news and updates. An Indianapolis Colts player allegedly placed dozens of bets on NFL games, but the crew says to be careful lumping together all football betting issues. Also, when Can’t Lose definitely loses, how North Carolina crossed the legislative finish line, and why Texas might need major help to get there.
Adam Candee (00:10):
Hello and welcome to episode number 197 of the LSR Podcast. We come to you each week with the news and views of the sports betting/daily fantasy sports industries. This week joined by Dustin Gouker, I am Adam Candee. Matt Brown will be back with us soon. We hope it’s the summer for everyone. I’m playing a road game this week. If you are watching on YouTube, you can see that. As Matt would remind you, please give us a thumbs up and a subscribe if you haven’t. Already, you can find us on all of the podcast platforms that you enjoy.
A big week in the legal sports betting industry with a new state coming on, with some bets being placed maybe where they shouldn’t be, with some questions about a big market that didn’t get it done this year in terms of legalization and what the future might look like there among other things.
Indianapolis Colts player allegedly bets on NFL games
But Dustin, let’s start with the news that I think probably reaches beyond the sports betting bubble that we spend most of our time in with reporting by SportsHandle and ESPN that Indianapolis Colts player Isaiah Rodgers is under investigation for making somewhere in the range of a hundred wagers that we don’t know exactly what they were about, but there is a thought that it could be NFL games, could even be Colts games. Most of these were thought to be small-dollar wagers in the range of $25 to $50.
I feel like as we’ve had these cases come up over the past few weeks, the discussion has taken different turns. “What were they thinking? Shouldn’t they have known? Is the NFL doing enough to educate?” On and on and on. What were your first thoughts when you saw this particular story and this set of circumstances?
Dustin Gouker (02:02):
Yeah, I’ve been willing to cut at least the NFL a break like, “This is a new thing. Yes, people are still learning about how things are going.” But at this point, we have yet another investigation, and this one, yeah, if the reports are true that he’s betting on NFL games and actual Colts games, then I don’t know. This feels like a big problem. The NFL certainly is not doing enough on the education front or the teams are not doing enough. We say this a lot, but yeah, you’re seeing sportsbook advertising on all the NFL broadcasts. You’re seeing the NFL engage with this and have sportsbooks at stadiums and things like that.
You owe it to yourselves to do more than what you’ve done, I think, especially given the fact that we now have … Yeah, this is more than just a one-off of a player betting and not betting on his own sport. If this is truly a player betting on his own sport and perhaps his own team, then we have a serious problem, and you got to fault the education because yeah, again, we say this all the time, they should know better, but apparently they don’t because this guy’s in a contract year. He is a cornerback that’s making $3 million a year, I think.
If all this is true, he’s not going to play in the NFL again, I think it’s pretty clear. It depends on the exact circumstances. But we have to do better of educating players, because yeah, we say it’s five years, it’s new, but at the same time, we’re still having this. Again, we’ll talk about this in a second, we don’t really care if you’re betting on other sports, but if you’re betting on your own sport and your own team, that would be a huge problem that nobody can really say, “This is OK.” That has to stop.
Adam Candee (03:39):
There’s going to come a time when there’s a nefarious actor somewhere in here. There very well could be a time where we’re talking about someone trying to influence the outcome of a game. We were talking about someone who uses inside information to bet on something. There could be something that comes up in that regard. This ain’t it when it comes to Isaiah Rodgers because a guy with $3 million or more on the line is not doing something willfully, knowingly that he shouldn’t, by placing $25 and $50 wagers, when someone who is a millionaire is betting at the same level that most people listening to this podcast are probably betting, then we have an issue that likely has to do more with awareness than with a willful bad choice. It’s hard to believe.
Matt’s talked about it. I’ve talked about it. You go in any NFL facility and NFL locker room, and the prohibition against gambling is clear. It’s on signs. There is education at the beginning of every year. However, with what Dustin was just saying about the idea of, “Now we have repeated evidence of players not getting the message, even if there is education, even if there is awareness, it’s not enough.” It’s just simply not enough. There’s a report out from NESN this morning that Tom Brady is cutting a video on behalf of the NFL reminding players that they’re not allowed to gamble. Great. Anything along those lines is a worthwhile idea.
Dustin, it almost feels like NFL players are in the same boat that a lot of consumers are in where after 2018 they heard sports betting is legal. Right now, sports betting is legal, and they think sports betting is legal everywhere, and you see all of the FanDuel, DraftKings, et cetera ads on television, and you think, “OK, it’s alright to bet on sports.” Clearly there are categories of people and areas of the world where you’re not allowed to do this, but whether it’s the NFL or whether it’s the sports betting industry at large, that message is not clear enough.
Dustin Gouker (05:43):
Yeah. Absolutely. At this point, you also have to realize they also think they’re not going to get caught. I guess they think, “Oh, I’m just doing this on my phone. Nobody’s going to find out.” Obviously everybody’s finding out whether it’s through reporting or through integrity concerns or what have you. This is being found out. Again, this should be an example of it all working. That’s what I want to continue reiterating, because if you think these are the first NFL players to ever bet on sports. I’ve got news for you. They’re betting on sports. Yes, maybe it’s more accessible now and it’s in their faces now, but certainly players were betting. I also reject that this is a uniquely NFL problem. I don’t think the NBA and NHL and everybody else is doing that much better of a job.
You and I have talked about this. There’s certainly more players just in the NFL ecosystem just from roster sizes and all of that, but it’s hard to believe that nobody is. This has not happened in another sport as well, and that NFL is unique. We could dump on the NFL, but at the same time, I think this is an education problem that has to stem across all sorts of things, and including college, which is a part that we know that college players are certainly betting on sports, whether they’re betting on their own sports or their own school, that’s been happening. We have examples of that as well. But this is not certainly unique just to the legal and regulated era of the last five years. There’s been some amount of this going on that we just haven’t known about.
Adam Candee (07:08):
Well, let’s talk a little bit more about college, Dustin, at least tangentially to what we’ve been discussing. I shared with you a tweet that I saw this week from Michael — I’m going to say this name incorrectly, already made it incorrectly — and he is citing a report from Jeff Risdon, who is a radio host in Michigan who covers the Detroit Lions. I want to read this verbatim to you, “Jeff Risdon’s understanding of the Jameson Williams betting incident is that he bet on a college football game from an app while in a hotel room in another state. Since it was a team hotel, it wasn’t allowed.” I think we talked almost jokingly at the time of the Jameson Williams six-game suspension that, “Did he bet inside the facility, did he bet in the parking lot? Did he bet in his car?”
We joked about the idea that you can’t bet on the team plane. Well, I’m not sure we ever considered you can’t bet from the team hotel. This is unconfirmed. I don’t want to go too far with the factual basis here, but this reporting is specific enough to the idea of team hotel and team facility and what we know of these rules, that this is the sort of thing that would not resonate with the greater public, but it would resonate with us as folks who understand how these rules are set up, that if this is true, that he was betting on college games from a team hotel and has been suspended for six games because of that. This may be the greatest miscarriage in all of the NFL’s discipline, which we’ve been touting as completely necessary when it comes to Calvin Ridley and potentially to Isaiah Rodgers.
Dustin Gouker (08:54):
Yeah, I’ll echo that. Yeah. This is just one report, one source. We don’t know a whole lot more. We haven’t gotten more, but it’s so specific and how it’s couched. It’s hard to believe. This passes the smell test for me, and it’s so specific. How does somebody even make this up like, “Oh, this is what they did.” Yeah, hashtag free Jameson Williams if this is what went down, right? This is not anything anybody should care about. Yes, again, violated the letter of the law, maybe.
But I mean, if this was actually in a team hotel, I can believe that nobody has any idea that you can’t bet in a team hotel, right? That’s not something that anybody would even contemplate like, “Hey, it’s OK if you do this and this as long as it’s not on team property and all of this and on team time.” But at a hotel on college football, not your own sport, who cares? Slap on the wrist, give them a … I don’t know, $5,000 fine and move on with their life. This is not an integrity problem. This is not a problem. Yes, I understand, slippery slope, athletes are on sportsbook apps, but that Pandora’s box is already open. So I don’t care if Jameson Williams is betting in college football at his team motel, and I don’t know why anybody else would, either.
When ‘Can’t Lose’ definitely loses
Adam Candee (10:04):
Two games for Ray Rice knocking out his girlfriend. Six games for Jameson Williams betting from the Marriott on a college football game. We all see where the flaw in the logic is there. Dustin, flawed logic is not limited to NFL discipline for gambling. It can happen in, well, this week, Massachusetts. I want to read to you a quote from a lawyer for Penn National in a hearing about Barstool’s “can’t lose parlay.” That was called out by the Massachusetts regulator as misleading. Barstool tried to argue that, once again, this is something where you just don’t understand our content, where Big Cat, Dan Katz is a bad …
So the idea of “can’t lose” is tongue in cheek from a Penn lawyer in yesterday’s hearing in front of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. “No reasonable person would’ve concluded that they were engaging in a risk-free, sure-thing type bet.” We have not heard what the final discipline will be. Our Mike Mazzeo reports that Massachusetts Gaming Commission members were not impressed with that line of thinking from Penn and Barstool. Dustin, I gather from my discussions with you that you’re not impressed either.
Dustin Gouker (11:25):
Yeah, I’m not impressed at all that they’re still defending this. You could have said, “Our bad; this is dumb. Maybe we shouldn’t have done it.” In this era, just we talk about this all the time, last few months, free bets, risk-free bets, no-sweat bets, things like that have gotten … Well, maybe not no-sweat bets, but they’ve gone away. This era, this idea that, “Oh, you can’t lose this bet” is …
Literally they have this promotion called “can’t lose parlay,” where they say, “Here, bet this parlay.” Yes, you’re an idiot if you think you’re not going to lose the parlay, but we also know people are idiots. There are plenty of idiots in the world who I am sure bet this and said, “Oh, this is going to win. Sure.” Even if it’s not, even if we don’t believe that it’s just bad marketing and the responsible gambling era that we find ourselves in, that you’re saying, “Oh, this can’t lose.” Haha, it’s a joke.
Again, and coupled with this, in this hearing that a lawyer for Penn Entertainment said they have no idea how well Barstool converts. So the idea that everybody’s in on the joke, that this Big Cat has no idea how to bet that he’s an awful better, none of it passes the smell test. I guess I understand why they’re saying this, that they don’t want to face regulatory pressure anywhere else.
So they’re going to say, “Oh, this is no reasonable person.” So they don’t get fined anywhere else, I guess. So they’re going to put this defense up. But yes, no reasonable person, sure. But there are some amount of people who are vulnerable populations, who think, “Oh, man, this looks like a really good bet. I think this is going to win.”
Maybe you don’t believe it’s “can’t lose,” but it’s still giving this idea that the bet can win or should win because Barstool is telling you it should. So again, whether you believe it or not, it’s still just bad marketing and not responsible gambling. I’m just still appalled that Penn and Barstool are defending this and not just saying, “Oops, our bad. Maybe we should never have done this.”
Adam Candee (13:17):
I think it’s important to understand the context that this happened in what’s termed an adjudicatory hearing, which is essentially a disciplinary hearing in front of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. So Penn is offering what I think it sees as a legal defense to say, no reasonable person. You’re trying to say, “Well, reasonably no one could have been expected to buy into this as a sure thing.” But the problem is much larger than that because we’re not talking about meeting a legal standard when it comes to this existing in the first place. We’re talking about meeting the standard of perception.
Dustin and I have talked about this, and I will go back to it until it happens and I hope it never happens. But this is the sort of thing that having worked in politics and spent enough time with legislators who don’t really totally get it, but know that their constituents are upset about it or know that people who are lobbying about them are upset about it. When it shows up on a big blown-up poster board over the shoulder of someone in the House or the Senate at the federal level as a reason to ban gambling, no one’s going to care whether or not you were in on the Barstool joke.
That’s why I wrote years ago, years ago, that the responsibility was never on Barstool. It was always on Penn to understand the legal regulated gaming environment better than the folks at Barstool do, and to be able to reign it in and to be able to make sure that Barstool, knowing the brand that you bought operates within the bounds of an industry that is far more heavily regulated than what Barstool is used to out there in the media world of, “We’re not going to apologize.”
In this world, if you don’t apologize, you’re either, in the best case, going to get a large fine. In the worst case, you might be talking about a license being in trouble. I don’t think Penn’s license is in any trouble in this case, in part because, to their credit, they have voluntarily ended the “can’t lose parlay” promotion. They’re not going to do it anymore. OK. But it shouldn’t continually take someone slapping your hand and then you, as Dustin just said, coming out and saying, “Well, we don’t agree with you, but we’ll stop doing it because you don’t like it.” No, that doesn’t work. That’s not the way that anyone in the legal regulated gaming industry is going to help the tide continue to keep boats afloat.
Dustin Gouker (15:39):
Yes, and it’s important to note, this has been going on for a long time. Basically, since Barstool started, there’s this “can’t lose parlay,” and we’re told Penn Entertainment consistently tells us, “Oh, they’re just a marketing arm.” So this is going into the actual sportsbook. It’s called a “can’t lose parlay.” It’s in the app. It’s not just, “Oh, it’s marketed out here, and then inside the app it’s different.” It’s called a “can’t lose parlay” or was called a “can’t lose parlay” in the app. Again, there’s a different standard for that.
Most of what we’ve seen is marketing. This is not marketing. This is in an app talk, “Big Cat’s can’t lose parlay.” You come across that and it smells bad, right? Again, what are you gaining from this? That’s the other crazy part about this. You’re not gaining anything by calling it a can’t lose parlay. Haha, it’s funny, some Barstool customers think it’s funny. Nope, it’s not making you any money. It’s just the weirdest hill to die on. It should have been like, “Oh somebody said this is a bad idea.” I mean, I’m pretty sure one of us said this is a bad idea the first time we saw it on the Barstool app, and it’s like, “Stop it. You’re not making any money from this. You’re not gaining or retaining customers, just all of it is bad optics. Just stop it.”
Adam Candee (16:47):
In Louisiana and Michigan, the tide is changing as well, where Playfly Sports, the rights holder who was involved in these deals, reported to our Sam McQuillan. We knew that the Michigan State deal with Caesars was likely to be coming to an end. That had been reported up in Lansing, but LSR had the story first about LSU also ending its deal with Caesars Sportsbook as the environment post-New York Times series, especially for college partnerships, continues to rationalize to a large degree here.
Dustin, we believe that SuperBook’s partnership with University of Denver is the only one of these remaining right now. They, of course, SuperBook has defended it and said they’re going to keep it. They’re in a much different situation than Caesars Sportsbook, but it feels like a bit of sanity being restored in LSU and Michigan State ending these deals.
Dustin Gouker (17:46):
Yeah, this whole podcast, I guess is just bad ideas that are going away finally. Again, when we first saw this, we were like, “This is a bad idea. Why are we putting sportsbooks on college campuses? Whether you’re just marketing it to alumni or not, this is a bad idea. There’s very little to be gained. The optics were bad. The optics came to fruition.”
Again, with that New York Times series. We’ve been ranting about this. I’ve been ranting about it ever since it first started. “Why do we need college sportsbooks and college partnerships? This is so bad, such a bad idea.” This is the natural conclusion of all of it. Just took us a couple of years to get there, I guess. But yeah, I don’t think we’re going to see this ever again. Just again, with the NCAA’s Charlie Baker coming in as commissioner, they’ll just be different.
We’re not going to see this anymore in the NCAA. Hopefully the NCAA writ large just takes it more seriously as well. I know they don’t have all that much power over some of the power schools in a lot of things. But it should have been clear from the start, “Let’s not do sportsbook deals.” There’s nothing to be gained. Only bad optics to come out of this for both colleges and the sportsbooks. So hopefully that last one goes away sometime soon. But yeah, we’re finally back to the era of sanity where colleges and sportsbooks are apparently not going to be partnering together anymore.
Adam Candee (19:09):
You remember the old Saturday Night Live skit, “Bad Idea Jeans.” I feel like that’s basically us right now sitting around talking about all of the things that came out of people wearing Bad Idea Jeans. That’s the LSR Podcast number 197, is we’re going to get people into the proper jeans for 2023.
How North Carolina crossed the legislative finish line
North Carolina in 2023 appears to be putting forward a law that from most of the reaction I’ve seen thus far, Dustin, people seem to feel pretty good about the model of North Carolina online sports betting, which was passed this week, final approval. We’ve had many votes of concurrence and amendments and so on, but it is through the legislature. North Carolina online sports betting likely to come about in the beginning of 2024.
Governor Roy Cooper has indicated he’s going to sign that bill that should get to him in the next couple of weeks. Now, North Carolina had tribal in-person sports betting for a few years. That was a very minuscule market. I know you guys talked about it a bit on the podcast last week, Dustin. But it looks like North Carolina about to come to fruition, and really this is going to be the biggest passage that we see in 2023.
Dustin Gouker (20:23):
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, just that one step left. As we sit here, I guess we’re looking at a 2024 launch. I don’t think there’s much hope with the law as effective date and all of that that is going to launch this year. Looks like some early or mid to late next year would be the most likely timeframes.
But yeah, when we talked about over the years, the map looks hard that North Carolina was looking good, looking bad. This is how legislation goes in a lot of things. It finally got there at the end that it’s going to be passed. Yeah, we see wins and you don’t have all this focus for the companies and the industry on new launches. This then has knock-over effect into the industry and the stock market because you’re not constantly chasing your tail, dealing with launches, or spending a lot on these launches.
Now you have, “Oh, we’re going to focus on Kentucky this year. We’re going to focus on North Carolina next year.” Most of it is then working on your core business, retention, profitability, things like that. So it’s interesting that it comes here, but this is one of the last big wins we’re going to see for a while, certainly. Obviously, the legislative season is just about over for most places. We don’t think we’re really going to see legalization anywhere else this year, and there’s a tough road ahead. For other states that have been contemplating this year, this could really just have these two launches in these couple next couple of years, which underlines, again, the fact that there’s been so much adoption early on that we’re not going to see just more states, more states there.
Yes, we have the Minnesotas, the Missouri, some others that are out there hanging out, and then the big states, which we’ll talk about in a second, but this is a big win. Big state, should be a very additive state for everybody in the online support betting market. I agree, most people have said, it looks like a really good bill, offers a pretty good commercial framework. It allows lots of operators in; it’s not onerous. It’s if we’re going to pass a bill, it’s really just about what you’d like to see in terms of creating an open marketplace for consumers.
Adam Candee (22:29):
You know the industry likes it because you’ve seen multiple lobbyists on Twitter taking victory laps on this bill, and so you know that everybody within the sports betting operator side is happy with how it turned out. Looking at an 18% tax rate, five-year license for $1 million, you’re looking at the eight professional sports entities in the state being eligible for licenses, and we’ll see some partnership deals like the ones that we’ve seen in the past. There is actually some explicit language about fantasy sports in there, as well. So a victory for the underdogs and PrizePicks of the world, theoretically, at least in terms of how that will be better defined.
Why Texas might need major help to get there
Dustin, you referenced, however, that could be one of the largest ones to come off the map for sports betting proponents. We have a good story by Mike Mazzeo right now at Legal Sports Report talking about Texas and doing a bit of a post-mortem on what happened. Now, to be clear, we all thought from the jump, Texas was a long shot this year, and the fact that it even passed the House, I think has to be seen as something of a victory for anybody interested in the long-term prospects for legal sports betting in Texas. But there were some very strange things to come out of this whole process. For instance, have you ever seen the sponsor of a bill be unwilling to do a media interview at any point during a legislative session touting the merits of that bill? That happened here with Senator Lois Kolkhorst in Texas.
Mike Mazzeo probably wore out the phone line to her press office trying to get an interview for a bill that she signed her name to and carried. Nope, nothing happened. There was some belief that Dan Patrick, lieutenant governor, might have softened his stance. By the time we got to the end of the session, that belief looked more like blind misled hope than anything because Dan Patrick did not seem to give any indication that this was going to happen. So Dustin, after seeing Mike’s reporting and looking at what’s happened here in terms of the comments that we’ve seen about Texas, do you believe that even in 2025 that there’s a real chance for this happening, if Dan Patrick is in office until 2026?
Dustin Gouker (24:41):
I mean, the chance is non-zero, but I read Mike’s pieces, and I’m equally pessimistic about what’s going to happen in Texas because I think a lot of people are like, “Oh, we passed through the House. We got two years here. We’re going to get it the rest of the way.” It doesn’t look like that on its face. It’s certainly progress, and you’d rather have progress than not. But everything that’s going to be against online sports betting happening in Texas is still going to be in play in 2025. The biggest thing is that Patrick is still there, and he’s come out, unless there’s support from this from the Republican caucus in the Senate, nothing’s going anywhere.
So what changes there? What is going to change meaningfully? Again, we don’t have a legislative session next year. It goes to 2025 for Texas. So it’s tough to see it right now. It doesn’t mean things can’t change, but it feels dead on arrival almost in 2025 as well, unless … I don’t know. We’ve talked up the Mark Cubans and the Jerry Jones of the world really getting involved and getting this going. That’s what’s it’s going to take, I think, is that they’re going to get personally involved almost. They’ve said stuff about it, but they haven’t thrown in their political capital, all their chips behind it. It doesn’t feel like to me.
So if they really think this is important, and I don’t know how important either of them thinks it is, that’s what it’s going to take, is that the leagues and the teams in Texas are the ones that are going to push this forward. If they can’t move that needle on their Senate Republican side, then it just feels dead. So it doesn’t mean things can’t change. There’s a lot of time between now and then, but it feels rough right now.
Adam Candee (26:19):
It feels rough, Dustin, because I think it is extremely rough for Texas because it’s almost as though you pushed up to the ceiling and you found out that that ceiling is reinforced steel under about 20 feet of dirt. To get up to the surface is going to be extremely difficult here. Whatever optimism there was around sports betting, you’re right, ties back to the fact that Jerry Jones had said that he was interested. Mark Cuban had said that he was interested. Tillman Fertitta had said that he was interested, and what we saw when the rubber truly met the road was that Jerry Jones wasn’t anywhere to be found, was that Tilman Fertitta wasn’t anywhere to be found.
Mark Cuban had an email exchange with Mike Mazzeo in which he basically said, “I’m more interested in casino legislation that would help turn Texas into a vacation destination than I am specifically about sports betting standalone.” So then you start to get back into the Las Vegas Sands opposition to wider casino expansion before you even begin to talk about Dan Patrick being willing as the president of the Senate to let anything hit the floor there that his caucus would have to vote on.
It feels as though there are major roadblocks that are interconnected that have to be moved when it comes to Texas. I don’t know. I mean, it’s ahead of Florida. To me, it’s ahead of California, just because of the seeming intractability. I don’t know if that’s a word, but I might’ve made it up right there.
Dustin Gouker (27:54):
That’s a word.
Adam Candee (27:56):
Yeah, we’re going to go with it. It has truthiness. It doesn’t feel like California with the animosity there is anywhere close. Florida, of course, is still tied up in court. I thought Texas had the best chance of the group, and because of the legislative path, it does. It just doesn’t feel that way at the moment. Yeah.
Dustin Gouker (28:14):
I mean, I’d still put it ahead. I agree with you. It’s way ahead of California right now. Things can change in Texas in two years in a way that I don’t think things can change in California. I don’t see how that’s going to change meaningfully in the next two years. So yes, if you’re going to do a, “Who’s going to legalize first?” It may be both, never. But I’m going to bet on Texas ahead of California for sure.
Adam Candee (28:36):
Well, North Carolina, January 2024 is the first effective date. Kentucky’s hoping for the beginning of this NFL season. Vermont report up from Sam McQuillan at LSR right now. Governor Phil Scott is likely to sign that bill this week, so that market can get going. Oh, boy, if you haven’t been paying attention to what’s been happening in Maine with a bill that was passed and signed a long time ago and what’s been happening with the regulator of the Maine Gambling Control Unit, I suggest you go to Legal Sports Report and read some very interesting reporting there.
Dustin can be found on Twitter at Dustin Gouker. I am there at Adam Candee, as Matt would say, two E’s, no Y. Matt hopefully will rejoin us next week as we near 200 episodes of the LSR Podcast. Always free, always available at all of the podcast platforms where you get your audio enjoyment and on YouTube as well. For Dustin, I’m Adam. See you next week.