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You Are Now Free To Complain To Your Congressional Rep About Sports Betting Ads

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The Super Bowl is one of the great magnets of American culture because of its place as Backup Christmas. Everyone gathers around the multiple gods of wings, beer, M&Ms in the colors of the competing teams, ads, betting squares, strangers passing as friends and occasional flickers of sport, and it all reduces us to a nation of moths. It is the last place in America in which a lot of people are willing to pay attention to the same thing simultaneously, which makes it the perfect place for the creation of another badly needed wedge issue.

With that as the come-on, we present to you the enticingly named Betting On Our Future Act, introduced Thursday by New York congressman Paul Tonko. It would introduce a cigarette-style ban on advertising by any medium governed by the Federal Communications Commission—you know, your standard TV, radio and internet—on the theory that many gambling ads are predatory in nature and have already shown enough ill effects that Ohio has already threatened BetMGM, Caesars and DraftKings with fines for sending promotional material to people under 21. The NBA has already told its gambling partners it can no longer use words like "free bets," causing the industry to use the more gently worded "bonus bets," as though five different letters fix the problem.

So yeah, fun.

Tonko's bill clearly addresses the gambling industry's essential absence of subtlety in seeking out customers, a fact demonstrated most clearly in California where two gambling-backed initiatives were crushed on election day because they tried to explain how gambling would cure the state's homelessness crisis. It could not have been more soundly defeated if it had been named the More Anthrax In Our Schools Act.

On the other hand, dropping this little beauty into Congressional hands during Super Bowl Week made it seem like a moment for top-grade grandstanding, which is also the purview of Congress. In legalizing gambling, lawmakers saw free money for pet projects and necessities alike, which of course is the same come-on Tonko's bill is trying to limit. That's the inherent beauty of gambling, it promises something you know you'll never have—free money—because what you're really after is the action. The money just salts the trap.

And this is no anti-gambling screed either. Half the country—26 states, which of course is the perfect ratio for the upcoming civil war—have already legalized gambling, and like all legalizations it was done to benefit people who can hear a loophole being formed in the outer reaches of space and wedge through them with the manic grace of Patrick Mahomes. Thus, "free bets," and targeting college students because, well, who better to target? When the Barstool Sportsbook (yes, part of the Pizza Boy Empire) was cited for promoting its services "on or near" the University of Toledo campus, you saw how swiftly the industry worked its magic. You know, the way any industry does when confronted with a potential customer.

The effect of Tonko's bill, though, hits both the sports book empire and most sports media in general, which means that the lobbying to defeat the bill will come not only from the books but all the places they advertise—ESPN comes to mind here, because ESPN comes to mind everywhere. The legion of DraftKings/FanDuel sponsored segments and shows would suddenly either vanish or be dramatically diminished. To prevent this, the media congloms and their gambling partners will airlift money shaped like hay bales into Washington and state houses to prevent this, and if we know the way the country works (and we do), the pro and con sides will split 23-23, with the other 54 percent giving their usual dearth of fucks. It's how the system works, until the seven percent layoff plan is introduced.

As for the timing of Tonko's bill, well, if you want eyeballs, shoot for the eyes. It is Super Bowl Week, and $800 gobbledyzillions are being bet even as you read this on some hideously unreachable parlay because it's fun to tell your pals at the rendering house you put $20 at plus-1700 on Haason Reddick eating Isiah Pacheco and picking his teeth with the femur before rather than after halftime, and consuming what internal organ first. In that way, the Betting On Our Future Act could not have been birthed at a more propitious time—which is what makes it feel as oily as it may be beneficial.

Frankly, like everything else we produce. Equal parts yes and no, for a measure that will produce equal parts pain and pleasure. And as any gambler will tell you, if you're hitting 50 percent, you're losing because the vig will eat you alive.

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