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The NFL's antiquated view of gambling amidst Tony Romo fantasy convention shutdown

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The NFL has always tried to publicly distance itself from gambling, even as they benefit from it in a variety of ways. Whether it be the injury reports that hold value primarily for odds-makers, teams cutting marketing and sponsorship deals with casinos, teams even using facilities connected to casinos for events, or a variety of other things, gambling has long been an important part of football.

Recently, the issue of gambling came up with regard to a fantasy football convention. Tony Romo was involved with a group putting on a convention in Las Vegas that was going to take place at the Sands Expo & Convention Center. There were reports more than 100 NFL players were going to be attending the event, with reports they would earn up to $1 million in appearance fees.

The event had been in the planning for several months, but in the last two weeks, the NFL put the kibosh on the event. The NFL released this statement to

"Players and NFL personnel may not participate in promotional activities or other appearances at or in connection with events that are held at or sponsored by casinos."

The Sands Expo has no gambling on the premises, but apparently is locate don casino property. It is located next to The Palazzo and The Venetian. I thought it was completely off casino property, but apparently not.

The Romo event has been postponed until 2016, and will take place in Los Angeles to avoid this NFL rule. There is a second fantasy event planned in July, called the Fantasy Sports Combine. They are continuing on with their event, choosing to replace the five active players with recently retired players.

The NFL's stance on gambling has been baffling and incredibly inconsistent for some time now. Several teams have sponsorship deals with local casinos. The most recent involves the Detroit Lions and MGM creating a branded club. The counter to that is it just involves a basic sponsorship deal and does not necessarily stress gambling connections.

A better example would be the New Orleans Saints conducting training camp at a resort called The Greenbrier. The resort includes a 103,000 square foot venue "filled with world-class gaming at its finest." The Greenbrier is a resort, but they are very clear in promoting their casino. They and the Saints do not seem to promote the casino in connection with training camp, but Tony Romo and the fantasy convention certainly are not promoting gambling in connection with their event.

I see this happening for one of a few reasons. The first reason is basic power. The NFL holds a certain amount of power over the players, and this is a way for them to swing their sword. The second reason is basic PR. The NFL has shown repeatedly over the last year that it will do whatever it can to boost the perception of the NFL, without actually instilling much legitimate improvement. The NFL expresses concern about the problems gambling can create, but they are plenty fine benefiting tremendously from gambling. And so, they put up this PR front that makes the league feel better about itself. The third reason is money. The league could just be pissy they did not think of something like this first, or at least some way to cash in on this.

I would imagine the NFL is cracking down for some combination of these reasons. The PR reason makes a lot of sense, particularly with the league recently forbidding three players from participating in a celebrity poker tournament. This is not the first time such an event has happened, but the league has seen fit to crack down at this point.

In some ways, the league is behind the teams when it comes to gambling. Casinos have a vested interest in games being on the level. If the average gambler thinks a game is fixed, or point-shaving is happening in some way, they might become much less inclined to wager on that event. The league seems to think any player connection with casinos is going to create a negative impression. In reality, any wrong-doing with regard to point-shaving, game fixes and so forth would be set up by much more nefarious elements. Just check out this article about an illegal World Cup betting ring linked to the Chinese mob (discussed even prior to that HERE).

Once again, the NFL is not really concerned with fixing problems, but rather, putting up a front that they care about something, but not actually doing anything about it.