It must have been a surreal moment for Roger Goodell. After years of shunning Las Vegas and speaking out against legalized sports gambling, the NFL commissioner was doing the opposite.
Goodell was peppered with Vegas-themed questions Tuesday in Phoenix, a day after owners voted to approve the Raiders’ relocation to the Strip. He promoted everything he once opposed. The past two days created scenes we never thought we would see.
On sports betting in Las Vegas, Goodell said, “You have the regulatory environment there, which actually will be beneficial.”
That always has been the argument for legalized wagering. In allowing the Raiders to relocate from Oakland to Las Vegas, the NFL will not be seeking any sort of restrictions on Nevada sports books. The lines will be on the board, and it will be business as usual.
A popular radio host on the East Coast spread a rumor that the Raiders’ games in Las Vegas would be taken off the board. Veteran oddsmaker Jimmy Vaccaro reacted by saying the spreading of that rumor was manure.
“That’s the silliest (expletive) I’ve heard,” Vaccaro said. “Do you think they would go this far without that being addressed? No.”
Westgate sports book director Jay Kornegay said if the NFL is coming, it should be willing to play by Nevada’s rules. And that is the case.
“I am not aware that the NFL is considering submitting that request — and that’s what it would be is a request — to the Gaming Control Board,” Kornegay said. “I have not heard anything about that request or anything to indicate they are going down that road.”
Goodell and the NFL have been hypocritical on the gambling issue, sending regular-season games to London and Mexico City in the shadow of sports books. But common sense finally is prevailing, and eventually there will be a Super Bowl staged on the Strip.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who led the Raiders’ push to relocate, told reporters, “Gaming in Las Vegas was not a deterrent at all to this decision.”
Jones added that legalized wagering in Las Vegas “in no way compromises” the integrity of the game.
Goodell and the NFL have promoted fantasy football, which is a form of gambling. Ironically, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo was forced to cancel a fantasy football event twice in recent years because it was being hosted at a Las Vegas casino.
Finally, Goodell is realizing his hard-cord stance against gambling was wrong all along.
But then he also mentioned the league will “still strongly oppose legalized gambling” on a national level. So he doesn’t completely get it yet, but he’s getting there.
It’s a tale of hypocrisy and irony. Still, the bottom line is the NFL is coming to Las Vegas and is willing to play by the Nevada rules.