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  • Ed Botti

Tumbling Dice

by Ed Botti

Originally Published in March 2022


As predicted here on SSTN (by none other than yours truly), professional sports and gambling make strange bedfellows, to say the least. Their marriage is based on one thing, and one thing only.


As John Grant once wrote, “Fraud is the daughter of greed.”

It does not take a rocket scientist to connect the dots, and it was only a matter of time, and a very short time at that, for legal sports gambling to work its way onto the playing field.

The problem: The powers that be, don’t want to see it.

Those three wise Japanese monkeys from the 17th century are sitting back somewhere thinking “I TOLD YOU SO”!!

Photo AP

No, Draftkings did not buy an ad at center court or ice, or in the end zone or even on the back of the pitcher’s mound (all of that is basically in place already). No. It’s worse. What makes it even more troubling to me is we now have our first occurrence (that we know of) of a player betting on his team using this new technology.

Yes, the predictable has emerged as reality. Is anyone actually surprised? If you are, I have a fantastic bridge crossing the East River that I’d love to sell you.

This week the NFL announced that the see-no-evil, hear-no-evil, speak no-evil platform has come home to roost.

Since 2018 when the US Supreme Court crushed the federal law barring sports gambling, our major sports leagues have been involved hook, line and sinker; walking away with suitcases full of cash.

How long did anyone actually believe it would go on before one of their own placed a bet?

We have 30 states, at my last count, that allow for the “convenience” of mobile sports betting. As if our younger generation needed another excuse to be glued to their phones.

Temptation is a gun!

We now have our first shooting. And quite honestly, it appears to be self-inflicted.

Calvin Ridley, a talented wide receiver for the Atlanta Falcons got caught placing a $1,500 parlay that included his team.

As a result, Ridley was suspended for (at least) the upcoming season, which will cost him more than $11MM. It’s actually going to turn out to be a lot more than $11MM. Here’s why. In many NFL circles it was a foregone conclusion that he would have been traded this off season (year 5 of his rookie contract) and that whatever team acquired him would no doubt re-do and extend his contract beyond the 2022 season. How much he would have earned, and for how many years is unknown. But he would have gotten much more than what was left on his rookie contract. Now, he can kiss that contract goodbye.

That I do know. And now, that is all gone. He bet $1,500 and lost well over $11MM.

I don’t think Jimmy “the Greek” would have made that bet!

As with most stories and scandals, there is more to this than meets the eye. For example, some will argue that since he took a leave of absence back in October of 2021, due to mental health issues, he was not responsible for his actions.

I don’t buy that.

Some will say “What’s the big deal, he bet on his team to win”?

Well, just ask Pete Rose how that turned out for him.

The reality is that the Pandora’s Box was ripped open by the greedy Commissioners. In this case, good old Roger Goodell. That would be the same Roger Goodell that once told Giant and Jet fans that Personal Seat Licenses were actually “good investments”.

Sure Roger, and so was AOL stock!

The NFL has always been synonymous with Gambling. Now, it’s just a lot easier and more profitable for them. Because of that, he fell right into the 3 wise monkeys’ trap. It was so predictable that it is (almost) humorous.

Sure, he made a serious and solemn statement this week “There is nothing more fundamental to the NFL’s success and to the reputation of everyone associated with our league, than upholding the integrity of the game. This is the responsibility of every player, coach, owner, game official, and anyone else employed in the league. Your actions put the integrity of the game at risk, threatened to damage public confidence in professional football, and potentially undermined the reputations of your fellow players throughout the NFL.”

I look at it differently, I look at it as Goodell’s (et alia) actions actually put the integrity of the game at risk.

It’s like getting a pet hamster and expecting your pet dog or cat not to go after it, and then when they do, acting surprised. Then punishing your kids for not keeping them apart.

In actuality, Goodell does not care. The NFL will continue without the slightest of a hiccup.

MLB does not have that luxury.

Goodell is not the only one, not by any stretch. The gambling stronghold has reached the NBA, NHL and of course MLB.

My concern, is that for every Calvin Ridley that gets caught betting on his team to win, how many are actually making bets where their team loses, and they had an impact on it? I seriously doubt we will ever hear about of any of those incidents.

That would be too much of a validation that this was, from the very start, a terrible idea. One right along the lines of “new” Coke, or possibly Blockbuster Video turning down an opportunity to purchase a small startup called Netflix.

How far have we come?

Consider this, in 1979 Bowie Kuhn banned for life none other than Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays for accepting jobs with Atlantic City casinos. They worked as casino greeters. This involved conversing with guests and involvement in various casino events and activities. That lasted until then new Commissioner Peter Ueberroth lifted their ban in 1985.

Photo – Sports Illustrated

Fast forward to today and we have a nonstop barrage of ads pleading and begging us to place bets from the final score to the great MLB cash cow of “Prop Bets”.

Telling us to “make it rain”!

MLB is promoting these relationships big time. It comes down to a formula.

The more people bet, the more people are consuming digital content.

The more people consuming digital content, the more TV/Streaming revenue.

Oh yeah I forgot to mention, the leagues make a fortune now off of gambling. According to the most recent estimate by the American Gambling Association (AGA) “NFL’s annual revenue may increase by $2.3 billion a year due to widely available, legal, regulated sports betting”.

Just a few short years ago, Goodell was against legalized sports gambling.

Gee, I wonder what changed his opinion so fast.

One of the things sports leagues, especially MLB, are contending with is the explosion of the internet and all of the different types of entertainment sources available, literally at one’s finger tips.

There is more competition now than there ever was before for the distribution of digital content.

Sports leagues believe that gambling has become the pathway of building fan bases, at least according to the Commissioners and their advisors.

Entire pregame shows are aired 2 hours before game time hammering us with odds and “good bets”.

As with any business decision there is a risk/reward ratio that must be analyzed and considered.

In this case:

Reward – Increased revenue.

Risk – Scandals and loss of integrity.

As I now watch pro sports and a player makes an error on an easy play, or drops a pass in the end zone, or misses an easy layup, or fans on a breakaway, I cannot help but think to myself “Was that rigged”?

Can someone please explain to me how that is good for the game(s)?

Most of us baseball fans are thrilled that the lockout is finally over, including me, for sure. But, there is one thing you may not be aware of since the “Journalists” following the lockout seemed to have ignored reporting on it. Additionally, I do not recall Max Scherzer, Andrew Miller or Scott Boros, you know the guys that kept telling us how “Greedy” the owners are, ever mentioning it either.

The new CBA contains contractual language that gives the legal right and permission to all MLB players to negotiate promotional and endorsement deals directly with the sports gambling companies.

Under the new CBA players can now earn income in business relationships that are being referred to in the sports betting industry as “brand ambassadors” from gambling organizations.

Under these deals players can now put their names and likeness into advertising campaigns, and make appearances at promotional events for the sportsbooks and casinos.

You read that correctly. MLB players can and will be paid by gambling organizations.

As far as I know, the last time that happened, it was called the Chicago Black Sox scandal.

Previously, sports books have inked deals with former players, providing an income after their playing days were over (Mantle and Mays). That was fine by me. But now, the “under paid” and starving active players want more, so they added a little “pork” to the agreement.

I will state with a high level of certainty that the younger, lesser – known and lower paid players will not get these endorsement deals with casinos. That will go to the big name, high earning players.

And we thought it was all about taking care of the younger players and the “next generation” of players.

No. Don’t be fooled.

You can draw your own conclusions. In my opinion It was always about padding the pockets of the current players. PERIOD.

That is why the eight MLB players who form the MLBPA executive council; Andrew Miller, Max Scherzer, Francisco Lindor, Marcus Semien, Zack Britton, James Paxton, Jason Castro and Gerrit Cole all voted against the CBA, and were beaten by a landslide. The majority of the players wanted to get back to work and earn a paycheck.

The new CBA also provides for the ability for advertising on player uniforms for the first time.

I have a couple of questions on that matter.

Will MLB permit a sports gaming business to be one of those advertisers? And, how would a player who opposes betting respond to having a DraftKIngs or BetMGM ad on his jersey?

There are two distinct types of addictions. Physical and behavioral.

Tobacco is a physical addiction. Tobacco ads were banned many years ago.

Gambling is a behavioral addiction. Ads are everywhere in professional and even collegiate sporting events, and now MLB players are joining the party.

Maybe, Marlboro should have cut guys like Max Scherzer in on the deals! If they did, the Marlboro Man would still be on SNY, MSG, ESPN, FOX and YES.

And now we have Brooklyn Net Kevin Durant using the betting lines as a way of getting back at fans that heckled him.

On Tuesday night in a critical game against the Charlotte Hornets, Durant scored only 14 points. He is averaging 29.1 points per game in the 2021/2022 season.

The Nets won the game. However, some “fans” were not happy. Conceivably due to the fact that Durant’s over/under for points on Tuesday was set in the high 20’s.

When one fan/gambler made a complaint about his lack of production on social media, Durant responded on Twitter, saying: “When them parlays don’t hit. This is for years of slander from NBA fans, I’m grateful I have this much power now.”

As enthusiastic as NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and the NBA are about their gambling collaborations, they could not have been too thrilled when one of the sport’s biggest stars suggested that he would closely monitor the betting lines and hypothetically manipulate the outcomes to impact fan’s bottom lines.

Fans, the ones that underwrite the entire sports industry are now being used as a tool for some form of “power”.

Kevin’s words. Not mine.

Maybe he was embellishing it a bit because he is such an intense competitor and the thought of him playing below his standards for some form of retribution to nasty fans is a drastic step to take, and one you would not expect from him.

But, he did say it, and now we have to always wonder if other players are actually contemplating the same.

It’s too easy for them not to do it. Whether they do or not is a question we can ask, but will we ever get the truth?

I doubt it. The leagues are in too deep.

There was an old Saturday Night Live skit called “What Were You Thinking” that would fit in perfectly today.

So, just this week alone we have a wide receiver from Atlanta who loses $11+ MM and at least 1 year of his career over mobile gambling, one of the biggest stars in the NBA intimating he pulled up for gambling objectives and revenge, and MLB players are now allowed to earn income from gambling organizations.

Not a good look.

Who’s next? What’s next?

I couldn’t tell you.

But, it’s coming. Mark my words!

Today’s Interesting Fact – Derek Jeter did not play any position in the field besides shortstop. All 2,674 of his games on defense were at shortstop. He was the designated hitter 73 times in his illustrious Hall of Fame career!


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Paul Semendinger
Paul Semendinger
Jan 05

Thanks again for this article Ed.


Jan 05

Totally agree


Jan 05

what's the under on comments for this fine essay?

Jan 05
Replying to


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