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

Last May, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the 1992 law that illegal sports betting in the majority of states (Nevada enjoyed an exclusion ). When that occurred, the floodgates for legalized sports betting across the nation opened up–Delaware, New Jersey, Mississippi, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island became the first to permit gambling on the result 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 due to their follow-up to that undertaking. Reteaming with Dealt director Luke Korem and fellow manufacturer Russell Wayne Groves (in addition to 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 the ones on the area, but those in the match, wagering a small fortune on the outcome of the games being played. Texas Monthly caught up with Jackson in advance of this series’ final episode to chat about sports betting, daily dream, and what the chances are that Texas enables fans to put a wager on game day in the next few decades.
Texas Monthly: What did you learn from this job?
Bradley Jackson: Just how large a business this is. I meanyou find the amounts and they’re simply astronomical. In the opening paragraph of this show, when we are showing all these people gambling on the Super Bowl, that just on the Super Bowl alone, I think it’s like six billion dollars. But the caveat to that stat is that only 3% of this is legal wagering. Meaning 97 percent of all action wagered on the Super Bowl is illegal. That amount from Super Bowl weekend was among the first stats I watched when we were getting into this undertaking, and it blew my mind. Then you examine the real numbers of how much is actually bet in the usa, and it’s billions and billions of dollars–so much of this is illegal wagering. Therefore it feels like it’s 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 hadn’t ever done it, and now that I’ve spent six months embedded within this world, I’ve made a couple–low-stakes stuff, simply to get that feeling of what it is like. And it is fun, particularly when you’re wagering a sensible amount–but the emotions are still there. I am a very mental person, so when I lost my fifty-dollar UT vs. OU bet, I felt awful for approximately an hour. Because of course I bet on UT, so when OU won, it hurt not just because my team lost–it hurt even more that I dropped fifty bucks.
Texas Monthly: Do you have a sense of when placing a bet like that in Texas could be lawful?
Bradley JacksonWe live in a state that is obsessed with sportsfootball especially. And nothing draws people’s attention more than gambling on football, particularly the NFL. I believe eventually Texas can perform some kind of sport betting. I really don’t know how long it’s going to take. I believe they’ll do it in mobile, since I don’t think we will see casinos in Texas, actually. I’ve been hearing that perhaps Buffalo Wild Wings is going to do some type of pseudo sports gambling stuff, so you might go to Buffalo Wild Wings and put on your telephone and place a fifty-dollar wager on the Astros, and I think that will be legal one day. Probably sometime in the next five years.
Texas Monthly: With this business being huge, illegal, and so largely untaxed, to what extent do you believe gaming as a source of untapped revenue for your state plays into things?
Bradley Jackson: That will play hugely right into it. From a monetary perspective, it’s enormous. 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 stated we will need to take sports betting out of the shadows and then bring it into the light. That way you may tax it, which is always good for the states, but then you may also make sure it’s done over board. Once the Texas legislature sniff how much money may be taxed, it is a no-brainer.
Texas Monthly: The prohibited bookie that you speak to in the documentary states that legalization does not affect his organization. What was that like for you to understand?
Bradley Jackson: It blew me away. When we were sketching out the characters we wanted to try and determine to put in the show, an illegal bookie was definitely at the top of our listing. Our premise was that this will hurt them. We believed we were going to find some New Jersey illegal bookie whose bottom line was likely to be really hurt by all this. After we met this guy, it was the specific opposite. He was like,”I’m not sweating in any way.” I was shocked by it. He did state he thinks that if each state eventually goes, if this becomes 100% legal in every nation, he then think that he might be affected. However he works out of this Tri-State region, and right now it’s only legal in New Jersey, and only in four or five spots. He breaks it down quite well in the end of the very first episode, where he simply says,”It is convenient and it is charge –both C’s will never go off.” With an illegal bookie, you can lose fifty million dollars on credit, and that can really negatively impact your life. Whereas you can still hurt yourself gambling legitimately, but you can not bet on credit via lawful channels. If casinos begin letting you bet on charge, I believe his bottom line could get hurt. The more it’s part of the national dialog, the more money he makes, because people are like,”Oh, it is right?”
Texas Monthly: Is daily dream among those gateways to sports betting? It seems like it’s only a small variation on traditional gaming.
Bradley Jackson: In Episode 3, we follow one of the top five daily dream players in America. He’s a 26-year-old child. He makes millions of dollars doing that. He advised us that the most he has ever produced was $1.5 million in 1 week. Among our hypotheses for the show was that the pervasiveness of daily fantasy was a gateway into the leagues letting legalized gambling to actually happen. For years, you noticed the NFL say that sports gambling is the worst thing ever and they’d never allow it. And about four years back daily fantasy like DraftKings and FanDuel began, and they purchased, I believe, 30,000 ad spots across the NFL Sunday platform. When you were watching the NFL, any commercial was DraftKings or even FanDuel. And a great deal of people were like,”Wait a minute, you guys say you believe sports gambling is the worst thing ever. How is this not gaming?” It is gambling. We actually interview the CEO of DraftKings, and two of the high-up people at FanDuel, and I believe it’s B.S., but they say daily dream is not gambling, it is a game of skill. However, I don’t think that is true.
Texas Monthly: The way people who make money do it tends to involve conducting substantial quantities of teams to beat the odds, instead of picking the men they think 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’s doing is a lot of skill, but each week you will find two or three plays that are completely arbitrary, and they make his week ruin his week, and that is 100 percent chance. That is an element of gambling, as you’re putting something of financial worth up with an unknown outcome, and you don’t have any control on how that’s awarded. We see him literally shed sixty thousand 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 do well, but without Ezekiel Elliott making any gains, and then you see Zeke get, for example, a four-yard pass and he is like,”If one more of these happens, then I am screwed.” And then there’s this tiny two-yard pass from Prescott to Elliott and he goes,”Well, I simply dropped forty thousand dollars .” And you watch $60,000 jump from an account. There.
Texas Monthly: Ken Paxton has contended that daily dream is prohibited in Texas. Are there cultural factors in the country which may make this more difficult to maneuver, or is something like that just a means of staking a claim to the cash involved?
Bradley Jackson: It could just be the pessimist in me, but believe at the end of the day, a lot of it just boils down to cash. An interesting case study is exactly what occurred in Nevada. In Nevada they left daily fantasy illegal, which can be crazy, because gaming is legal in Nevada. Nevertheless, they made it illegal because the daily fantasy leagues wouldn’t cover the gambling tax. So it was like a reverse position, in which Nevada said,”Hey, this is betting, so pay the gambling taxes,” and DraftKings and FanDuel were like,”It’s not gambling.” And so they did not come to Nevada. I really don’t think Texas will inevitably take action right off the bat, but I think it in a couple years, once they see just how much money there will be produced, and there are smart ways to start it, it’ll happen.

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