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Coming soon to a state lottery near you: NFL team logos you can save after blowing 20 bucks on yet another worthless batch of scratch-off tickets.
Coming soon to the Delaware state lottery: A legitimate chance to win some money with what you know about your favorite NFL team.
One game steals your money in the name of pro football. The other at least gives you a fighting chance to test your skills.
Guess which one the NFL likes.
Yes, the league that is so terrified of gambling that it refused to allow a Las Vegas commercial during the Super Bowl a few years back is now in the gambling business itself. Aware that it can sell only so many $300 tickets to its games, the NFL has figured out a way to get a cut of some of the biggest gambling operations around.
Owners this week gave their approval for teams to put their logos on lottery tickets, in exchange for a piece of the action. The Patriots and Redskins immediately announced plans to do just that, and you can bet there will be plenty of team promotions urging folks to spend what little money they might have left on the new tickets.
No word yet on whether there will be kiosks next to the beer stands at the stadiums, but that won't likely be far behind. The one thing the NFL does know how to do is promote its product.
At the same time the league is entering the lottery business, though, it is threatening legal action if Delaware goes ahead with plans for a new lottery of its own. The NFL has serious problems with Delaware's new lottery, and not just because its greedy owners won't make money off of it.
Delaware's crime? It wants to allow sports betting in its lottery.
That apparently crosses the line for the NFL, whose stance against betting on its games has always been a bit ironic considering gamblers helped found the league and the evolution of point spreads helped make it so wildly popular. So attorneys for the league were in the courtroom the other day arguing before the Delaware Supreme Court that betting on NFL games should not be allowed.
Their reasoning? Bettors might have too good a chance to win.
Indeed, it may be true that picking winners in the NFL is easier than picking a scratch-off card at your local convenience store that might pay off. Then again, what isn't easier than going up against the astronomical odds that lotteries disclose only on the fine print that few people who buy tickets actually read.
Take the Massachusetts State Lottery, where the Patriots tickets will be sold, as an example. The lottery already runs a Boston Red Sox game, which this year offers prizes of up to $1 million for 10 lucky buyers whose only skill was being in the right line at the right time to buy a ticket and having $5 to buy it with.
The official odds show that one out of every 4½ tickets is a winner. But odds of actually winning something over your original investment are more like one in eight because 10 percent of the payoffs merely give you your five bucks back.
Pick a football game against the spread, meanwhile, and you theoretically have a 50-50 chance of winning. Heck, play a three-team parlay and you're still ahead of the scratch-card odds.
Interesting that the NFL has no moral qualms about making money off people who have no clue about how high the odds are stacked against them. But it does have issues with people betting $20 on the outcome of one of its games when they have a decent likelihood of winning that bet.
It's not as simple as that, of course. The NFL will tell you it's terrified of sports betting because of the possibility someone may try to fix one of its games. But that's an old and tired argument, and the thought that an NFL game could be tampered with is laughable to a betting industry that analyzes everything from the wind patterns at Lambeau Field to the main course at the team breakfast and would quickly spot any wrongdoing.
In the end, gambling is gambling. And now that the NFL is in the gambling business, it has lost its right to the moral high ground on the issue.
Lotteries are the worst form of gambling imaginable. They prey on the weakest people and exploit their dreams.
The next time the NFL screams about sports betting, remember who is sharing its bed.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org