Action’ Producer Bradley Jackson on the Odds of Texas Legalizing Sports Gambling

Last May, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the 1992 legislation that prohibited sports betting in the majority of states (Nevada appreciated an exclusion ). When that happened, the floodgates for legalized sports gambling across the country opened –Delaware, New Jersey, Mississippi, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island became the first to allow betting on the outcome of a game, but they are not likely to be the last.
Texas-based documentary filmmaker and UT graduate Bradley Jackson, who produced the surprise hit Dealt, about a blind San Antonio card shark, spent much of the past six months immersed in the world of sports gambling for his followup to this undertaking. Reteaming with Dealt director Luke Korem and fellow manufacturer Russell Wayne Groves (as well as showrunner David Assess ), Jackson produced the four-part Showtime documentary series Action, which tracked the winners and winners of this 2018-19 NFL season–not those on the field, but the ones at the casino, wagering a small fortune on the outcome of the games being played. Texas Monthly caught up with Jackson ahead of the series’ final episode to talk about sports betting, daily dream, and what the chances are that Texas allows fans to place a bet on game day in the next few decades.
Texas Monthly: What did you learn from this job?
Bradley Jackson: How big of a business this is. I mean, you see the numbers and they’re simply astronomical. From the opening sentence of this show, when we are showing these individuals betting on the Super Bowl, that only on the Super Bowl alone, I think that it’s like six billion dollars. But then the caveat to that stat is that only 3 percent of that is legal wagering. Meaning 97 percent of action wagered on the Super Bowl is prohibited. That amount from Super Bowl weekend was one of the first stats that I saw when we were getting into this project, and it blew my mind. Then you look at the actual numbers of how much is actually bet in America, and it’s billions and billions of dollars–and so much of this is prohibited wagering. So it seems like it is one of those things everybody is doing, however, nobody really talks about.
Texas Monthly: Did working on this project inspire you to place any bets?
Bradley Jackson: Yeah. I had never done it, and I’ve spent six months embedded within this world, I’ve made a couple–low-stakes things, simply to find that sense of what it is like. And it’s fun, particularly when you’re wagering a sensible level –but the emotions are still there. I’m a very emotional person, so when I dropped my fifty-dollar UT vs. OU bet, I felt awful for approximately one hour. Because naturally I bet on UT, so when OU won, it hurt not only because my team lost–it hurt more that I dropped fifty bucks.
Texas Monthly: Can you have a feeling of when putting a wager like that in Texas could be legal?
Bradley Jackson: We live in a country that is obsessed with sportsfootball especially. And nothing draws people’s attention over betting on football, especially the NFL. I think finally Texas will do some kind of sport betting. I don’t know how long it’s likely to take. I think they’ll do it in mobile, because I do not think we will see casinos in Texas, ever. I have been hearing that perhaps Buffalo Wild Wings is going to do some sort of pseudo sports gambling stuff, which means you could go to Buffalo Wild Wings and put on your telephone and place a fifty-dollar wager on the Astros, and I feel that would be lawful one day. Probably sometime in the next five decades.
Texas Monthly: With this business being huge, prohibited, and thus largely untaxed, to what extent do you think gambling as a source of untapped revenue for your country plays into things?
Bradley Jackson: This will play hugely right into it. From a monetary perspective, it’s huge. Adam Silver, the commissioner of the NBA, was kind of on the forefront of that. He wrote an editorial to the New York Times about four years ago where he stated we need to take sports betting out of the shadows and bring it into the light. That way you can tax it, which is obviously good for the countries, but you can also make sure it’s done over board. When the Texas legislature sniff how much money can be taxed, it’s a no-brainer.
Texas Monthly: The illegal bookie which you speak to in the documentary says that legalization doesn’t impact his organization. What was that like for you to learn?
Bradley Jackson: It blew me away. When we had been sketching out the characters we wanted to try and determine to spend the series, an illegal bookie was definitely on top of our list. Our premise was that this will hurt them. We believed we were going to find some New Jersey illegal bookie whose bottom line was going to be very hurt by all this. After we met this man, it was the specific opposite. He was just like,”I’m not sweating at all.” I was stunned by it. He’d state that he believes that if each state eventually goes, if that becomes 100% legal in every nation, he then think he might be impacted. But he works out of this Tri-State region, and now it’s only legal in New Jersey, and just in four or five spots. He breaks it down quite well in the end of our first incident, where he simply says,”It’s convenient and it is credit–both C will never go off.” With a illegal bookie, you can lose fifty thousand dollars on credit, and that may really negatively impact your life. Sometime you can still hurt yourself betting legitimately, but you can not bet on credit via lawful channels. If casinos start letting you bet on credit, then I think his bottom line could get hurt. The longer it’s a part of this national conversation, the more money he gets, because people are like,”Oh, it is legal, right?”
Texas Monthly: Why is daily fantasy one of those gateways to sports betting? It seems like it is only a small variation on traditional gambling.
Bradley Jackson: In Episode 3, we follow one of the top five daily fantasy players in America. He’s a 26-year-old child. He makes millions of dollars doing that. He advised us that the most he’s ever produced was $1.5 million in one week. Among our hypotheses for the show was that the pervasiveness of everyday fantasy was a gateway into the leagues letting legalized gaming to really happen. For many years, you noticed the NFL say that sports gambling is the worst thing ever and they would never allow it. And then about four years back daily fantasy like DraftKings and FanDuel started, and they bought, I think, 30,000 advertisement spots across the NFL Sunday platform. When you were watching the NFL, every other commercial was DraftKings or FanDuel. And a great deal of people were like,”Wait a minute, you guys say that you believe sports betting is the worst thing ever. How is this not gaming?” It is gambling. We actually join the CEO of DraftKings, and a couple of the high-up individuals at FanDuel, and I think it’s B.S., however they say daily fantasy isn’t gambling, it is a game of skill. However, I really don’t think that’s true.
Texas Monthly: The way people who make money do it tends to involve running substantial numbers of teams to beat the odds, instead of choosing the guys they believe have the best matchups this week.
Bradley Jackson: Right. We filmed our daily fantasy player above a weekend of making his bets, and he doesn’t do well that weekend. And he talked about how what he is doing is a lot of skill, but every week there are just two or three plays that are entirely arbitrary, and they either make his week or ruin his week, which is 100 percent luck. That really is an element of gambling, because you are putting something of financial worth up with an unknown result, and you don’t have any control on how that’s awarded. We watch him literally shed sixty million dollars on a three-yard run by Ezekiel Elliott. It’s the Cowboys-Eagles, and he states,”All I need is to get the Cowboys to perform nicely, but minus Ezekiel Elliott making any gains, and then you visit Zeke get, like, a four-yard pass and he is like,”If one more of these happens, then I’m screwed.” And then there’s this tiny two-yard pass from Prescott to Elliott and he goes,”I simply dropped forty thousand dollars .” And you observe $60,000 jump from an account. There is no way that is not gaming.
Texas Monthly: Ken Paxton has contended that daily dream is illegal in Texas. Are there any cultural factors in the state which may make this more challenging to maneuver, or is some thing similar to that just a way of staking a claim to the cash involved?
Bradley Jackson: It might just be the pessimist in me, but believe in the end of the day, a lot of it just comes down to money. A fascinating case study is exactly what occurred in Nevada. In Nevada they made daily fantasy illegal, which can be mad, because gambling is legal in Nevada. Nevertheless, they made it illegal since the daily fantasy leagues would not pay the gambling tax. So it was like a reverse position, in which Nevada said,”Hey, this is gambling, so cover the gambling taxes,” and DraftKings and FanDuel were like,”It’s not gambling.” And so they didn’t come to Nevada. I really don’t think Texas will inevitably take action right off the bat, but I think it in a few years, when they determine just how much money there will be made, and there are smart ways to go about it, it is going to happen.

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