Only a highway separates the black Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas from the shiny golden facades of Mandalay Bay, one of the largest casinos in the world with thousands of slot machines and table games. Professional sport and the betting industry, faith in sport and temptation could not be more united. And that is now becoming a problem.

Americans will bet $23 billion on the Super Bowl, which will take place in this same stadium. One in four adult American citizens will bet money on the NFL football league final next Sunday. These are records, as reported by the American media. Tens of thousands of fans are already in the gambling metropolis, frolicking in casinos and sports betting offices. They want fun, many hope to make a lot of money.

Super Bowl in Las Vegas: Can it go well?

A few days before the Super Bowl, a heated discussion broke out around the big event and the betting industry. The questions now being asked: Is it appropriate for such a game to take place in Sin City? Given the growing number of gambling addicts, can the NFL continue to be a role model? And most importantly: how does the football league ensure that its matches are not manipulated by corrupt players?

It wasn't long ago that the NFL took a clear stance on sports betting. In 2017, when the owner of the Oakland Raiders NFL team was allowed to move his club to Las Vegas, NFL boss Roger Goodell said he remained “firmly opposed” to legalizing sports betting because it was a ” threatens the integrity of the game.” “represented.

Some six years later, there isn't much of that left. In 2018, the United States Supreme Court paved the way for sports betting outside states like Nevada, where it is already allowed.

A gold mine for the NFL, which follows a tough path of expansion at all levels. And so, after the league has always avoided Las Vegas, the Super Bowl will be held for the first time in the gaming capital of the world. According to US media reports, the league receives hundreds of millions of dollars from sponsorship deals with betting companies. Former superstars like Rob Gronkowski encourage their fans to bet money on football with a big smile and a big contract in their pocket.

Sports betting providers and NFL players

This is done, for example, with the sports betting provider “Fanduel”. The company installed a huge stage in the media center during Super Bowl week. Framed by blue billboards, the absolute megastars of today and yesterday come and go and are interviewed by host Kay Adams without fear of being contacted.

The NFL is now under harsh criticism. “These bastards,” USA Today quoted anti-gambling activist Arnie Wexler. “We are killing American youth and no one cares,” the NFL defends itself: “We are proud of the leadership position we have taken in this area throughout the sports industry,” the league told the newspaper. A million-dollar sum to an organization against gambling addiction seems like a guilty conscience.

One thing is clear: the NFL wants to give the impression, at least to the outside world, that it is extremely strict when it comes to betting. The league takes tough action against players who place bets on NFL games. Some were suspended for several games for not complying. Star receiver Calvin Ridley even had to miss the entire 2022 season.

And a few days ago, NFL boss Goodell sent a memo to all 32 teams to remind them of internal betting rules. Team employees, including players, are prohibited from betting on the Super Bowl. Entry to a sports betting office during these hours is only permitted if it involves access to an adjacent room that is not locked. On a very small scale. Furthermore, no privileged information may be transmitted. Players can participate in regular casino games, such as blackjack or poker, as long as they are not playing for the Chiefs or 49ers. Goodell's supposed goal? Exactly: to protect the aforementioned “integrity of our game.”

Expert: “Something big is going to happen”

There are experts who don't have a good feeling about the whole thing, they are actually afraid. “There will be a story, something will happen, because it's Las Vegas and it won't stay in Las Vegas,” said Joe Buck, one of America's best-known and most respected television commentators. Buck also somewhat vaguely predicted: “Something big is going to happen. I do not know what could be. I have no idea. In my opinion it will be a disaster.”

Former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason also commented on the speculation surrounding the game in Las Vegas. In his opinion, the players should have stayed before the game in a neighboring state. “Problems, potential problems. It's playing with fire. Personally, I would have kept her in Arizona. I would have kept her out of here until the game. I would have brought her here the morning of the game.

Former NFL player Jamal Foreman sees it differently and doesn't expect any problems. For him, Las Vegas is on its way to becoming one of the largest sports cities in the US, as he explains to FOCUS online. His mother lives in a smaller gambling town near Las Vegas and stays away from casinos.

“It is the personal decision of each person, NFL player or average citizen, to gamble or go to the casino. But the fact that the Super Bowl is being held in Las Vegas doesn't change anything.” And then comes the phrase that gets to the heart of the matter: “Business is business.”