I love the NFL and chances are you love the NFL too. Whether you are sports fan, a gambler, a sportsbook operator or one of the thousands of businesses that earn a buck off the NFL directly or indirectly you would love more NFL games. Let’s look at how the change will affect each group.
The NFL is tabling a proposal to extend the regular season by two games a year. It’s an effort to increase revenues for the owners and it would in turn increase revenues for everyone else with a stake in the NFL. This has raised anger in the players’ ranks that are willing to fight the move using all their leverage to keep the schedule at 16 games.
The problem for the players that oppose the 18-game schedule is that the NFL can add two extra without the players consent as the length of the season isn’t a collective bargaining issue. The strongest leverage the players have is a work stoppage but considering that the NFL has contemplated a lockout to negotiate a tighter revenue sharing model, this could work against them.
It’s hard to imagine either side risking this multi-billion dollar cash cow with a work stoppage but right now, both sides feel they deserve more so anything is possible.
The current proposal would replace two preseason games with two regular season games, so technically the number of games remains the same except that two more would count in the standings. The benefits of an 18 game schedule are obvious for gamblers and sportsbooks. People would rather bet a game that counts than an exhibition game and the more important the game the more action the sportsbooks will receive.
I asked Bodog book manager Richard Gardner about the benefits of two more regular season games on the sportsbooks bottom line, Gardner answers, ““The NFL is definitely the largest market for gamblers and for our sportsbook. If the NFL did decide to add 2 extra games, it would only benefit the book in the long run. Regular Season games on average receive 5x the action we take on an NFL Preseason game.”
Some detractors of the 18-game season point out that first place teams generally sit their starters in the final couple of games in the 16-game season, so if the Indianapolis Colts lock up a Bye in week 14, we likely won’t see Peyton Manning for four games. While its true teams like the Colts will shut down early but for every Colts team, there are four teams like the Jets or the Jaguars. The Jets earned their playoff berth last season and the Jags lost a playoff spot on the final day of the season.
The players’ reasoning for not wanting to work two extra games is understandable. In a sport where the players are brutalized every play and the average NFL career is only 3½ seasons long; two more games would open up players to more injuries. In addition, with all of the reports about concussions and former NFL stars dying far younger than the national average, this isn’t like the boss asking you to stay late and file reports, these players shorten their lives every time they step on the field.
As good as two extra games would be for fans, gamblers and sports, pushing for it wouldn’t be worth a work stoppage for anyone involved.
For North American sportsbook operators and sports bettors it would create a huge hole in our Sundays. I asked Gardner about the potential loss of the NFL, “The rumor of potentially no NFL for the start of the 2011 season does worry us a bit, but at Bodog we offer such a wide and comprehensive range of markets to wager on that we have already planned for the worst case scenario.”
It’s true online sportsbooks offer bets on everything but the problem I see is that gamblers don’t want to bet on everything. Yes, I admit I’ve spent a night or two looking for Korean baseball scores because it was the only game on the board but that’s not an every Sunday occurrence.
I asked my friend Blue, an avid football gambler, if the NFL shutdown for a year would he move his betting money to other sports or gamble less and Blue said “I’d bet less, no doubt about it. And I don’t think picket-line crossers (replacement players) would do it for me either.”
I followed up asking how he would fill his Sunday’s, he answered without a second thought, “probably getting laid more, oh let me clean that up for your readers, I’d work on my relationship.” He continues, “I’d set aside some money each week and take the girlfriend on a vacation on what would have been Super Bowl week or go to Vegas with the boys if there is no girlfriend in the picture.”
Blue is a very profitable gambler so I had to ask him about the loss of betting income. He smiles and says it would be a trade off, “Less (rubs his fingers together) but more (thrusts hips).”
Well put my friend, if the NFL and NFLPA can’t get on the same page, players will lose money, teams will lose money and sports books will lose money but it appears that gamblers will find other ways to occupy their time.