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NFL rides wave of sports betting | The Associated Press

9th November, 16:23

Luckily, the black cat making its prime-time debut at MetLife Stadium didn't seem to be an omen. The cat not only found the end zone but found a way to escape Monday night, which is more than most members of the Giants can do before their season is mercifully over.

That's life midway through the National Football League's (NFL) 100th season, where a cat is more entertaining than both New York teams and the race for the bottom is a fight for future draft picks instead of the Lombardi trophy.

Things are even worse in Cincinnati, where the Bengals can't sniff a win and can't draw any fans. If parity is the goal in the NFL, the Bengals are among the perennially underperforming teams that have yet to get the memo.

Winning, the legendary Vince Lombardi so famously said, isn't everything. It's the only thing. But that's not always true these days in the NFL, where the money is huge for both owners and players whether they're chasing a Super Bowl or the basement of their division.

Increasingly, that's also true these days for fans. They can play daily fantasy or make bets in an increasing number of states that are more predicated on different spreads and statistical outcomes than they are on the idea of their team winning.

And that might be the biggest change in a season where the NFL has not only embraced its former nemesis -- sports betting -- but joined in promoting the fact its games are more fun to watch when there's a point spread involved.

"Not everybody bets but everybody is interested in whether or not their team is a favorite or a dog and by how much," former longtime NFL broadcaster Brent Musburger said. "It's helped fuel the league and it's only getting bigger and bigger now."

That can be seen in Las Vegas, where the betting handle keeps going up despite sports betting spreading to a dozen other states. It certainly can be seen in New Jersey, where fans sitting in the Meadowlands for the Monday night game were free to use their phones to bet on either the Giants or Cowboys -- though not on the black cat scoring again.

And it will likely be seen in the television dollars that are the backbone of everything the NFL does. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones predicted on the eve of the season that legal sports betting will help the league increase its lucrative television contracts by 50 percent when they are up for renegotiation in 2022.