NCPG Director: Don’t Bet “With the Rent” on Super Bowl

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Here’s a sensible three-legged moneyline parlay: 

  •   Stay within your limits
  •   Don’t gamble on credit
  •   Don’t wager when drunk, stressed, or depressed.

That’s one of several responsible gaming formulas the National Council on Problem Gambling will pitch to worldwide media representatives at Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas this week.

Keith Whyte, executive director of the NCPG, leads a group unveiling the organization’s message on football’s highest stage.

The NCPG estimates that seven million people suffer from gambling addiction, with an annual social cost of $7 billion. The proliferation of legalized sports wagering across the country will spike those totals.

The Super Bowl magnifies that concern as the world’s largest betting event. Projections at Legal Sports Report exceed $1.3 billion in wagers this year, culled from more than 50 million people about to make more than 100 million transactions.

This presents a paradox to the NFL. As NFL teams reportedly reap $1 billion in sponsorships with sportsbooks, revenue is up.

Engagement is up, witnessed by retired NFL stars like Drew Brees and Rob Gronkowski actively promoting gambling. Gronk’s halftime field goal attempt at Super Bowl 58 is linked with a $10 million bonus bet promotion with FanDuel. Granted, this special is free to play, but it will bring in new bettors who will place real money on wagers.

Abuse also will rise with more gambling activity, and that’s where tempered voices come into play.

What the NCPG is Focused On in Early 2024

The NCPG, which is neutral on legalized gambling, bills itself as the only non-profit organization seeking to minimize economic and social costs connected with gambling addiction. Founded in 1972, it is the oldest organization on gambling issues in the United States.

The Super Bowl is the second leg of its active first quarter.

In January, the group helped get the GRIT (Gambling Addiction Recovery, Investment, and Treatment) ACT off the ground with the help of United States Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and US Representative Andrea Salinas of Oregon. The bill will slowly work through Congress, seeking 50% of federal excise tax monies to address addiction and treatment.

The Super Bowl week appearances are the second step.

Step three is its 15th year of designating March as Problem Gambling Awareness Month. This is a national grassroots focus on education, programs, and preventative measures, perfectly timed with the heavily-wagered March Madness.

NFL Looks to NCPG for Betting Responsibility

It’s unsurprising for the Council on Problem Gambling to bring its message to the Super Bowl. What may be surprising is who partners with them. 

“For the first time in our history,  the NFL is our leading donor, and they have been a tremendous partner for us,” Whyte told Gaming Today in a special Super Bowl gambling interview.

“They give us a little more than $2 million a year, which we have used to fund our national helpline, address youth gambling, and the public at large.

“All other sports leagues have made commitments to us in the range of five or six figures, but the NFL is way above the rest. They also do a commercial for us every year. It’s priceless when you add the value of all that.”

Whyte says NFL responsible gambling commercials increase his organization’s helpline traffic by 200% and drive nearly a million people to its responsibleplay.org address. That site has comprehensive tools to help people stay out of trouble.

The public has seen the commercials over the years. One features former San Francisco 49ers coach Steve Mariucci talking about a responsible gambling game plan on a chalkboard. The message pertains to laying out a responsible gambling game plan.

A commercial this year will feature Kurt Warner.

“The NFL’s interest picked up after the 2018 PASPA repeal legalizing sports wagering,” Whyte said. “The league realized that if sports betting was going to expand, they wanted the safety net to mitigate negative events.”

History of NFL and Sports Betting Relationship

Much of that concerned the NFL’s image. The league has long regarded gambling as the public-relations genie it cannot keep inside the bottle.

For decades, the league publicly frowned upon gambling while profiting from the illegal wagers that spiked fan interest. This hypocrisy was not lost on critics.

The NFL fought unsuccessfully to get legalized gambling banned because it did not want others to capitalize off its product. Now, the league champions its new profit center –  helped by sportsbook sponsorship and other revenue streams – while acknowledging responsibility. Gambling must be viewed as permitted to the public and controlled.

Even some NFL players, forbidden from gambling, have stepped into the pothole of temptation.

The NFL suspended Calvin Ridley for a year once he gambled on his own team, the Atlanta Falcons. This past season, Ridley returned to the NFL and had an excellent campaign with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The league hopes incidents like this are a mere hiccup in its operations. Football’s very integrity lies at the heart of a game that’s not tainted.

“The Super Bowl is an excellent time to make people aware of responsible gambling,”  Whyte said. “Gambling has always been there; the general public has always known about it, and now everybody knows it because of the ads.

“This is a great time to tell people many things, among them to keep it simple.

“Whatever you have pledged to play, for example, whether that’s $5, $50 or $500, stay with that. Keep it fun. You want to gamble for the right reasons, which is the enjoyment of it. You don’t ever want to be playing with the rent or the mortgage.”

Sports Betting Addiction By the Numbers

Most people do understand that. Whyte’s general belief has long been that roughly 75% of the population will never encounter a gambling problem.

Close to 25% will teeter on some difficulty but can be steered back in bounds by following simple steps. Many of them appear on sportsbook operator websites under Responsible Gaming. It’s an invaluable set of tools with options like automatic limits and cooling-off periods.

Perhaps 1% of gamblers can’t control themselves and must stop playing.

“The gaming industry, in general, is doing much better than ever. But, of course, there is still a long way to go in reaching people,” Whyte said. “One of them now is sending out monthly statements about deposits to customers.”

The innovations roll on. Most sites have bet-by-bet, spin-by-spin, and tax information results. How much have you been playing? Take a look and digest the news in black and white.

Ultimately, the league and interested organizations want gamblers to keep it fun and going. Anyone staying within those parameters, figuratively speaking, has a winning ticket.

Throughout 2024, and especially during the first quarter, the NCPG will try to drive this point home.

Portions of the interview have been edited for style and clarity.

About the Author
Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo

Writer
Dave Bontempo is an award-winning writer and broadcaster, who has covered the sports industry since the 1970s. He won the Sam Taub Award for Excellence in Boxing Broadcasting by the Boxing Writers Association of America in 1997, and is in the New Jersey and Atlantic City Boxing Halls of Fame. Bontempo has broadcast major fights all over the world. The advent of legalized sports wagering shifted his focus to this exciting new industry in 2018.

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