Super Bowl Sunday Nears With Much Betting

Published on: February 1, 2008 

It doesn’t matter if you are an American football fan or not, Super Bowl Sunday, the biggest game of the National Football League in America brings in bets from all over the world.  Betting on a game is as much a tradition as having a Super Bowl party.  Art Rooney and Tim Mara, the founding fathers of the NFL, also believed that as they had been betting on their football franchises and other sports since 1925.

Two years ago when the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Seattle Seahawks and earned that infamous ‘one for the thumb’ ring, Las Vegas odd makers set a record.  Bettors waged $94.5 million dollars on that game.  February 3, 2008 will see the playing of Super Bowl XLII between the New York Giants and the undefeated New England Patriots.  Las Vegas bookies are already expecting wagers to top $100 million.

The NFL tries each year to distance themselves and the league from the gambling revenues that is taken in during the season and the Super Bowl.  They have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on anti-gambling tactics, but bets are still made, not only in Vegas, but in betting shops, office pools, bars, and illegal bookies.  The NFL were backers of the Professional and Amateurs Sports Protection Act which bars state-licensed sports betting in all but a few states, and they backed the Internet Gambling Prohibition and Enforcement Act of 2006 which made placing bets outside the United States by US citizens illegal.

Does wagering still happen on these football games?  It sure does.  And because of the wagering, some of it serious, some of it just friendly between friends, the NFL has benefited from it.  Wagers have caused the amount of viewers to skyrocket and the Super Bowl to be the most watched sports event on television.  NFL bets throughout the regular season and playoff games surpassed the amount that was bet on college football, professional basketball, and Major League Baseball games combined.

While the NFL cannot stop people betting on their games, they can make sure that their players are reprimanded, suspended, or even banned if caught betting – think Michael Vick.  They did not want viewers and fans to come under the misconception that games were fixed and harsh penalties have been in place ever since.  In 1947, the commissioner of the NFL at the time, Bert Bell, initiated the practice of publishing an injury report of all the players and how likely it was that they would play.  This report which assured fans that the games were honest is still in place today – even though anyone wanting to bet on a game now uses it for their own purposes.

Today, pregame point spread predictions by sportscasters on the networks that carry the games are strictly forbidden.  Some stations like ESPN allow their sportscasters to run predictions on their weekly shows, but that is okay because it’s not right before the game.

There are some NFL owners who think that the gambling issue isn’t as big an issue as the NFL commission likes to make it as long as it’s the public betting and not the teams or personnel.  Gambling on the games could be a good thing.  Art Rooney and Tim Mara sure thought so.

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