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 occurred, the floodgates for legalized sports gambling across the nation opened up–Delaware, New Jersey, Mississippi, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island became the first to permit gambling on the outcome of a game, but they’re not likely to be the last.
Texas-based documentary filmmaker and UT grad Bradley Jackson, who produced the surprise hit Dealt, about a blind San Antonio card shark, spent much of the previous six months immersed in the world of sports gambling for his follow-up to this project. Reteaming with Dealt director Luke Korem and fellow producer Russell Wayne Groves (as well as showrunner David Assess ), Jackson produced the four-part Showtime documentary series Action, that monitored the winners and winners of the 2018-19 NFL season–not those on the field, but those at the match, wagering a small fortune on the outcome of the games being played. Texas Monthly caught up with Jackson ahead of this series’ final episode to chat about sports gambling, daily dream, and what the odds are that Texas allows fans to place a bet on game day within the upcoming few decades.
Texas Monthly: What did you learn from this job?
Bradley Jackson: How large a business this is. I mean, you see the amounts and they’re just astronomical. From the opening sentence of this series, when we are showing all these people betting on the Super Bowl, which only on the Super Bowl alone, I think that it’s like six billion dollars. But the caveat to that stat is that just 3% of this is legal wagering. That means 97 percent of all action wagered on the Super Bowl is prohibited. That amount from Super Bowl weekend was among the first stats that I saw when we were getting into this project, and it blew my mind. And then you examine the actual numbers of how much is actually bet in the usa, and it has billions and billions of dollars–and so much of this is illegal wagering. Therefore it seems like it is one of those things everybody is doing, however, nobody really talks about.
Texas Monthly: Did working on this job inspire you to place any bets?
Bradley Jackson: Yeah. I had never done it, and now that I’ve spent six months embedded within this world, I’ve made a couple–low-stakes stuff, 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 am a really emotional person, so when I lost my fifty-dollar UT vs. OU bet, I genuinely felt awful for approximately one hour. Because of course I bet on UT, so when OU won, it hurt not just because my team dropped –it hurt more that I lost fifty bucks.
Texas Monthly: Do you have a sense of when placing a wager like that in Texas might be legal?
Bradley Jackson: We are living in a country that’s obsessed with sportsfootball especially. And nothing draws people’s attention more than betting on football, especially the NFL. I believe finally Texas will do some sort of sport gambling. I don’t know how long it’s likely to take. I believe they’ll do it in mobile, since I do not think we will see casinos in Texas, ever. I’ve been hearing that perhaps Buffalo Wild Wings will do some type of pseudo sports betting stuff, so you could go to Buffalo Wild Wings and get on your telephone and set a fifty-dollar wager on the Astros, and I feel that would be legal one day. Probably sometime in the next five decades.
Texas Monthly: With this industry being huge, illegal, and thus largely untaxed, to what extent do you believe gambling as a source of untapped revenue for your state plays into matters?
Bradley Jackson: That will play hugely into it. From a monetary perspective, it is huge. Adam Silver, the commissioner of the NBA, was sort of on the forefront of the. He wrote an editorial to the New York Times about four years ago where he said we will need to take sports betting from the shadows and then bring it into the light. And that way you may tax it, which is obviously good for the countries, but you may also make sure it’s done above board. Once the Texas legislature sniff really how much money may be taxed, it’s a no-brainer.
Texas Monthly: The prohibited bookie which you talk to in the documentary says that legalization doesn’t affect his business. What was that like for you to understand?
Bradley Jackson: It blew me away. When we had been sketching out the figures we wanted to attempt to identify to put in the series, an illegal bookie was unquestionably at the very top of our listing. Our assumption was that this will hurt them. We thought we were going to find some New Jersey illegal bookie whose bottom line was going to be really hurt by all this. After we met this man, it was the specific opposite. He was like,”I’m not sweating in any way.” It shocked me. He did say he thinks that if every state eventually goes, if this becomes 100% legal in every nation, then he think he could be impacted. However he operates out of the Tri-State region, and now it is only legal in New Jersey, and just in four or five spots. He breaks it down quite well in the conclusion of our first incident, where he simply says,”It’s convenient and it is credit–both C will never go off.” Having a illegal bookie, you are able to lose fifty thousand dollars on credit, and that may really negatively impact your life. Sometime you can still harm yourself betting legally, but you can’t bet on credit via legal channels. If casinos begin letting you wager on charge, then I think his bottom line could get hurt. The longer it’s a part of the national conversation, the more money he gets, as people are like,”Oh, it’s right?”
Texas Monthly: Is daily fantasy among the gateways to sports betting? It feels like it’s only a slight variation on traditional gambling.
Bradley Jackson: In Episode 3, we follow one of the top five daily dream players in America. He is a 26-year-old child. He makes millions of dollars doing that. He told us that the most he has ever made was $1.5 million in one week. Among our hypotheses for the series was that the pervasiveness of everyday fantasy was a gateway to the leagues letting legalized gambling to really happen. For many years, you noticed the NFL state that sports betting is the worst thing ever and they’d never let it. And about four years ago daily fantasy like DraftKings and FanDuel began, and they bought, I believe, 30,000 advertisement spots across the NFL Sunday platform. When you were watching the NFL, every other commercial was DraftKings or even FanDuel. And a great deal of folks were like,”Wait a minute, you guys say that you believe sports gambling is the worst thing ever. What’s this not gambling?” It is gambling. We actually join the CEO of DraftKings, and a couple of the high-up people at FanDuel, and I believe that it’s B.S., but they say daily dream isn’t gambling, it is a game of skill. However, I really don’t think that is true.
Texas Monthly: The way individuals who make money do it will involve running substantial numbers of teams to beat the odds, instead of picking the guys they think have the best matchups this week.
Bradley Jackson: Right. We filmed our everyday fantasy player over a weekend of creating his stakes, and he does not do well that weekend. And he spoke about how what he’s doing is a lot of ability, but each week there are just two or three plays which are entirely arbitrary, and they make his week or ruin his week, and that is 100 percent chance. This really is an element of gaming, because you’re putting something of monetary value up with an unknown result, and you have no control over how that is given. We watch him literally lose sixty million dollars on a three-yard run by Ezekiel Elliott. It’s the Cowboys-Eagles, and he says,”All I want is for the Cowboys to do well, but minus Ezekiel Elliott making any profits, after which you see Zeke get, like, a four-yard pass and he is like,”If one more of these happens, then I am screwed.” And then there is this little two-yard pass away from Prescott to Elliott and he goes,”Well, I simply dropped forty thousand dollars .” And you watch $60,000 jump from an account. There is no way that’s not gaming.
Texas Monthly: Ken Paxton has contended that daily fantasy is illegal in Texas. Are there cultural factors in the country that might make this more challenging to pass, 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 at the end of the day, a lot of it just boils down to money. An interesting case study is what happened in Nevada. In Nevada they made daily fantasy illegal, which can be crazy, because gambling is legal in Nevada. Nevertheless, they made it illegal since the daily fantasy leagues wouldn’t cover the gaming tax. So it was just like a reverse place, where Nevada said,”Hey, this is gambling, so pay the gaming taxes,” and DraftKings and FanDuel were like,”It is not gambling.” And so they did not come to Nevada. I don’t think Texas will necessarily do it right off the bat, but I think it in a few years, once they see how much money there will be produced, and that there are clever ways to go about it, it is going to happen.

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