By TERRY LYONS, Editor-in-Chief
BOSTON – It’s a tradition nearly as old as Vegas’ Frontier Hotel. Each and every year for the past few decades, a “friendly bet” of a stockpile of local goodies is wagered by the Governors and Mayors of the cities and states representing the competing NFL teams, the survivors of the American and National conferences, in the National Football League’s championship must-see game – a.k.a. – the Super Bowl.
This year, the “Guv-nah” of Massachusetts, a wonderful and highly competent guy named Charlie Baker, said “Ante Up,” and plopped down the Chamber of Commerce’s menu of local products, including:
- New England Clam Chowder from popular tourist trap restaurant, Legal Sea Food in Boston
- Craisins from Ocean Spray in Middleborough
- Apple Cider Donuts from Smolak Farms in North Andover
- Apple Pie, Chicken Pot Pie and Maple Syrup from Hollis Hills Farms in Fitchburg
- Grillo’s Pickles from Needham
- and; some Boston Cream Pie Cupcakes and Lemon Squares from Koffee Kup Bakery in Springfield, the soon-to-be home of a brand new spanking MGM Casino
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf was bit more creative as he reached into his pocket for the goods! After previously positioning his State to pocket gobs of money through any combination of sports wagering or the lesser evil of daily fantasy sports, the progressive Guv offered up a virtual smorgasbord of goodies from the Philly-Reading area (as opposed to anything that might border near Pittsburgh). Should the Patriots win, the haul for the Commonwealth would be:
- Rooster Soup! A soup shoppe and luncheonette that sends 100% of its profits to Broad Street Ministry’s Hospitality Collaborative
- Pennsylvania’s best Scrapple from the Reading Terminal Market, a popular breakfast mashup from the nearby food marketplace, which just happens to be celebrating its 125th anniversary in 2018
- Coffee from La Colombe, one of the few cafes based in Philadelphia
- Donuts from Federal Donuts, a destination for donuts and fried chicken, which this week added a special Eagles-identified donut to its menu, complete with a PR-element to benefit Philly-area schools
- Some pizza pie from Rosa’s Fresh Pizza, a pizza joint that donates slices to homeless Philadelphians
Vegas Sports Book
The mayors are getting into the act as well, wagering the dress-code of statues dedicated to “Phictional Philly” (sic) great and motion picture legend “Rocky” vs. Brockton, Mass great Rocky Marciano with the loser having to wear the opposing team’s jersey. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney made the wager against Brockton’s Mayor Bill Carpenter, foregoing a bet vs. Boston mayoral gem Marty Walsh because of the boxing connection. Of course, Walsh could ante up the statues of Bobby Orr, Bill Russell, Ted Williams, or God forbid, Red Auerbach.
As fun-loving and entertaining as the “friendly” wagers are for Mayors, Governors and fans alike, there is a massive dose of hypocrisy that should be placed on the “Come” line as these made-for-the-Six-O’Clock-news bets are publicized all along Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.
Here’s why, with tongue planted firmly in cheek:
The Feds seem to be conveniently overlooking the illegal wagering on pro football brazenly conducted by the publicity-seeking pols, an activity banned by the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA). That law, pushed through when the State of Oregon dared to run a sports parlay game as a portion of its lottery, is currently under consideration for massive change should the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) rule in favor of the State of New Jersey in its efforts vs. the NCAA (supported by the pro leagues based in the USA). The laws are rigid and outdated as the rest of the “free” world seems to be “a-okay” with the likes of William Hill, Paddy Power, BetFair and a slew of other gaming houses conducting sports wagering operations, much the same way “Off Track Betting” operates in the USA.
The very term “United States” seems to hold a place at the table of hypocrisy in this argument as billions are being wagered this week in the State of Nevada with the outcome of a global schedule of sports games and entertaining proposition wagers con the get-rich-quick sports fans and professional sharks who try to beat the odds and the vigorish.
Isn’t it strange that there’s one set of State and Federal laws that govern sports gambling in Nevada and another page that governs most of the other States, albeit with the confusing caveat allowing some sorts of parlay gaming in Delaware? The Blue Hen State, our first, is a stones throw from the home stadium of the NFC Champion Philadelphia Eagles, attracts horse racing and casino players while allowing parlay wagering at places like Delaware Downs because of a grandfather clause in the PASPA ruling, a knee-jerk law that held a place at the tables for the States of Delaware, Montana and Oregon while the State of New Jersey literally fumbled its provision to carry out its voters wishes to allow sports gaming in the Garden State.
The hypocrisy confounds us as Mass Governor Baker champions the job-creation from the Wynn Boston Harbor, currently under construction in Everett, Mass, while he cashes a few scratch-off tickets emblazoned with New England Patriots, Boston Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics logos. And, with Harrah’s setting up shop in on the Chester, PA waterfront and the Sugar House Casino a few blocks from Penn Landing, nevermind Dover Downs an hour or so south via the Delaware Turnpike, what’s Governor Wolf to do?
The answers are few and far between, as politicians and sports executives throw their hands up, wondering what’s right or wrong, legal or illegal? Casinos are everywhere whether they be tribal council confines, like Foxwoods or Mohegan Sun (Connecticut, New England). Online Poker is okay in NJ, right, as its the home of the Vegas of the East in Atlantic City? The NHL has a team in Vegas and the NFL’s not far behind. The folks at Mohegan and MGM Resorts own WNBA teams and the Commissioner of the NBA, Adam Silver, wrote a forward-thinking op-ed in The New York Times years ago, stating its time for the Feds to update their legal opinion, as a regulated system might be better than no system at all.
Massachusetts Fantasy Sports Provider Draft Kings
Up in Canada, where the Moose Jaws and Canucks play? The Provence of British Columbia has a pretty nice bookmaking operation called Play Now up and running, disguised as a government lottery. Over in Europe, or as far away as Australia? There’s gaming being staged on every corner, right in or near the sports palaces by every Tom, Dick or Paddy you can find.
In all seriousness, there’s a huge difference between two state governors showing pride in their state and team by wagering some soup and doughnuts as opposed to some poor, troubled gambler betting the grocery money and family jewels on the Over/Under line in Vegas (or illegally offshore), but the underlying hypocrisy of different rules for horse racing, slots, scratch-off cards, sports gambling or playing the numbers (Power Ball-to-Mass Cash-to-Mega Millions) remains the issue, here.
So what’s a law abiding Governor to do?
How about Governor Baker reaching right into his Chamber of Commerce Rolodex to find Massachusetts-based daily fantasy sports conglomerate Draft Kings, then staying on the right side of the law by suggesting he and Governor Wolf play DK’s new “Showdown” game to determine who gets the scrapple and clam chowdah?