Do you remember the movie Thank You for Smoking? It was a satirical look at cigarette spokesman Nick Naylor (played by Aaron Eckhart aka Harvey Dent from The Dark Knight) who tries to remain a role model to his son despite promoting/defending lung darts.
While I could write a whole piece based on my love for cigarette nicknames (rip a grit, puff a smav, you got ant P-Funks?), that’s not why I mentioned this film.
That largely forgettable movie stuck with me because Eckhart does an outstanding job of being greasy, yet polished. I could see the world in which he operates. Like, oh, that’s why PR firms and lobbyists are valuable; spinning complete bullshit is an art.
That’s why it’s not difficult to understand why sports gambling is spreading unimpeded. If I have to sit through another JB Smoove-Patton Oswalt Caesar’s commercial — and I will — I’m going to lose my mind the same way that fucking Geico commercial led me to launch a petition banning all use of Tag Team’s music at sporting events and in ads.
No, I didn’t do that, but god dammit, you don’t make enough off of Jock Jams? Cash your royalty checks and go hang out with whomever wrote Tootsee Roll.
It seems even sports gambling execs are reaching their limit. Not on sports betting, but on sports betting advertising. In what appeared to be a moment of self-awareness at the SBC Summit North America, a major sports betting conference held in New Jersey this week that I’m sure featured a massive amount of stereotype-fulfilling moments, president of the American Gaming Association, Bill Miller, called the ad inundation “an unsustainable arms race.”
(I have so many questions. Was there a booth dedicated to how to juice local favorites? What was the SWAG? Vig calculators? Who was the keynote speaker? Geno from Queens who finally opened up his own legal, government-regulated sportsbook?)
Our sanity is not their concern, though, because these are gross gambling execs who embrace sleaze. The reason for their uneasiness is because they fear being regulated like their European counterparts.
“You do have to draw lessons from the U.K.: you have to self-regulate,” said Ken Fuchs, senior vice president of sports for Caesars Digital at the conference. “It’s about how does a customer interact with Caesars as a brand. It’s not about shouting at people: ‘Free money! Free money! Free money!’ That’s what wears people down.”
Really? That’s what wears people down? Not Smoove bellowing “CAE-SARS!” every commercial break? I had a Knicks MSG broadcast on the other night, and they had an impromptu Caesars ad with Smoove because he was at the game. That’s half a world of difference considering the whistle-to-whistle ban that’s been enacted in the U.K. prohibiting gambling commercials during games, and that Italy has outright nixed all sports betting advertisements since 2019.
Why would those countries do that? Was it because their governments, like me, were fed up with a never-ending avalanche of annoying commercials? If that was the case then maybe I should’ve started that petition.
But, no, the reason those laws were put in place, you odds-calculating dipshits, was because of match-fixing scandals corrupting the integrity of sports, and gambling addiction. We haven’t seen (discovered?) any of the former in the U.S. since gambling began its marijuana legalization-like spread because — and I’m projecting here — we’re naive and think just because the government said it’s OK, it’s safe.
Congressional oversight on how many times you can extend a B-list act’s career isn’t the danger to your industry; your industry is the danger to your industry. Gambling is a Mount Rushmore member of the Anonymous club along with drugs, alcohol and, I don’t know, sex?
The lust to safely give people the freedom to gamble isn’t what drives these sportsbook CEOs and professional sports leagues; it’s the money. The financial boon from sports gambling is why the NFL, MLB and others are getting into the business, and why my colleague Jesse Spector mentioned gambling revenue sharing as a possible solution to end the baseball lockout. Nevada sportsbooks just had their first $1 billion... month.
The NFL debuted its betting PSA during Thursday’s Dallas-New Orleans game, and even though he’s older, you can see the Nick Naylor in Steve Mariucci. The same idiots who openly discuss how to get more people to gamble, smoke, drink, etc., at a conference come from the same lineage as the people who thought, “Let’s put an Italian guy nicknamed ‘Mooch’ in our first gambling PSA.”
I’m going to step down from this saddle because it’s pretty high, but I do agree with the gaming president person on one thing: That JB Smoove ad is fucking exhausting.