Legal sports betting has now launched in Delaware, New Jersey, Mississippi and West Virginia. Plus, it’s on its way in other states, including Pennsylvania. However, in much the same way things went on when single-game sports wagering was only legal in Nevada, you won’t hear a thing about it on CBS’ NFL broadcasts this season.
CBS Sports President Sean McManus told Sports Illustrated this week the company’s NFL game announcers and studio analysts have been asked not mention point spreads, lines, over-unders or anything else related to sports betting during NFL broadcasts.
Legal sports betting too small for CBS
McManus’ justification for continuing to stick CBS’ collective “head in the sand” policy appears to be the fact only “a small handful of states” have legalized sports betting. As a result, McManus figures the lifting of a federal ban on sports betting in the US hasn’t made much of a difference for the majority of CBS’ NFL audience.
He’s probably right, but that doesn’t mean NFL viewers aren’t interested in the betting lines.
McManus and CBS are completely ignoring the massive illegal sports betting market that has existed for years. The American Gaming Association estimates Americans bet close to $150 billion a year on sports. The overwhelming majority of it illegally, and more of it on the NFL than any other major sports league.
However, CBS and other NFL broadcasters have been playing the three wise monkeys game with that information for decades.
The legal sports betting market is bringing what was once in the dark out into the light, however this seems lost on McManus. He appears to be willfully ignoring the fact its a legal market that is now growing at a tremendous pace.
Other networks admit the truth
Other networks that cover the NFL, including ESPN and Fox Sports, are admitting as much. They are already talking about NFL point spreads. It’s as if legal sports betting is as widespread now as it actually will be in just a few short years.
The openness is likely because these networks understand much of their audience has been betting on the NFL for years, regardless of the legality of sports betting.
Contracts with the NFL have long restricted what broadcasters can say about betting lines during NFL games. However, many have gotten away with thinly veiled sports gambling references for years. Their winks, smiles and nods are tantamount to admitting how many NFL viewers have something riding on the games.
In the Washington post article, Fred Gaudelli, the executive producer of NBC’s “Sunday Night Football,” had this to say:
“At this point, we’re going to honor the deals and there won’t be any specific gambling messages on our air this year…Then again,” he said, referring to Al Michaels, who has slipped in sports betting references on-air, “late in the fourth quarter, I have a rascal up in the booth.”
Understanding NFL broadcast viewers
This latest CBS policy makes one thing clear: McManus has very little understanding of what the typical NFL viewer is really all about. The very reason legal sports betting is here is because NFL fans helped grow the illegal market to a point where lawmakers could no longer ignore it.
Of course, the CBS policy may only be there to keep the NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell happy, appeasing him until the league figures out a way to get its hands on a piece of the sports gambling market. However, helping the NFL with its hypocritical approach to sports betting isn’t going to endear CBS to its viewers.
Plus, continuing to ignore the reality of betting and the NFL only makes the network’s announcers and analysts appear ignorant. Or at the very least, willing to treat the audience like they are.
Americans love the NFL, so they’ll watch the NFL on CBS whether the network ignores the realities of sports betting or not. They’ll just enjoy it more elsewhere.