Former National Football League Commissioner Pete Rozelle would roll over in his grave if he knew what the NFL had become today. Rozelle built the NFL for 29 years into the success it is by defending its integrity against the corrupting influence of gambling. The NFL had even prohibited visits to Las Vegas during the football season, and had banned advertisements to promote Vegas during the Super Bowl.
The NFL still publicly pretends to disfavor gambling on its games, yet nearly all of its teams have signed lucrative, multi-million-dollar deals for “fantasy football,” encouraging fans to gamble. Yet hypocrisy lingers as the NFL still publicly opposes betting on its games. The real underlying issue probably has more to do with whether the league profits from the gambling. Betting on professional football games already constitutes more than 40% of all the lawful sports betting in Nevada. In addition, the American Gaming Association estimates that $150 billion is spent annually on illegal sports betting.
So why are taxpayers subsidizing corporate welfare to the NFL as it moves towards gambling? We shouldn’t be footing the bills for billionaire owners who profit from massive taxpayer subsidies. The NFL has abandoned numerous stadiums, leaving the downtowns of multiple cities economically depressed.
In addition to forcing taxpayers to pay massive costs for these stadiums, many have been financed with tax-exempt bonds. A study by the Brookings Institute revealed that 36 of the 45 stadiums built or significantly renovated since 2000 used tax-exempt municipal bonds, which indirectly cost federal taxpayers $3.7 billion.
New Jersey ended up paying so much to the NFL after hosting the Super Bowl in 2014, without a significant boost to local commerce, that 55% of its business leaders surveyed said they don’t want the Super Bowl hosted in their state again. Yet the NFL uses the Super Bowl to threaten state legislators against enacting conservative legislation.
Fortunately, the public is waking up. Television ratings for the NFL were down last season after years of boundless growth. Despite the most exciting finish ever, more people decided not to watch the Super Bowl.