Former NFL executive sounds off on Super Bowl in Las Vegas after league’s ‘biggest taboo’ used to be gambling

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Andrew Brandt, the former vice president of the Green Bay Packers, still can’t wrap his head around the NFL having its Super Bowl in Las Vegas.

For Brandt, who continues to write for Peter King’s MMQB and contribute to ESPN, it was just yesterday that the NFL’s “biggest taboo” was gambling. 

“I was in the NFL for many years, and the biggest taboo of all was gambling. And that’s throughout sports,” Brandt said on OutKick’s “Hot Mic.”

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Allegiant Stadium prepares for Super Bowl LVIII

Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas is hosting Super Bowl LVIII on Feb. 11, 2024. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

“I remember interviewing a bunch of owners at the meetings when they decided to put the Raiders there. And I said to these owners – John Mara, Art Rooney, etc. – what’s your concerns about Vegas? ‘Oh, it’s a small market, it’s a tourism market. Is it going to last?’ I’m like hearing five different reasons, and I’m like, ‘What about gambling?’”

“This is what Vegas is now, it’s just another market and here’s the Super Bowl.”

Brandt understands he’s in the minority of those who believe embracing gambling instead of continuing to fight it is wrong. He even considers himself in the “old-timers” category.

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“It has become embedded in sports programming and embedded in sports media. And I’m not proud of that,” he said. “I’m from another day, I guess. I’m an older guy, and it wasn’t a part of it.”

But Brandt did point to the NFL fighting gambling for years, and he brought up a story about when he was with the Packers that showed the perception of the league then versus now. 

“I remember guys in 2008, 2009 – I’m with the Packers. Quick story: Right before the season we’re sitting around a bunch of scouts, coaches, team executives like myself. And they’re like, ‘Let’s do a fantasy draft – two rules: no Packers and no money.’”

“We’re like, ‘OK.’ And old Andrew Brandt’s got to call the league. … So, I call the league, and I swear this conversation happened. I’m like, ‘We’re going to do a fantasy draft. No money, no Packers. Just making sure, are we cool with that?’ There was a pregnant pause, and my lawyer friend at the NFL says, ‘Andrew, we didn’t have this conversation.’ I said, ‘What?’ He says, ‘How’s your family?’ So, this is only 14 years ago, whatever it is, and there wasn’t even a thought of fantasy football.”

Sports fans sit at sportsbook

Gamblers jam into Caesars Sportsbook at Caesars Palace Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas to watch and bet on Super Bowl LVII on Feb. 12, 2023. (George Rose/Getty Images)

Leagues have embraced gambling, as evidenced by allowing a team to move to Las Vegas and also the numerous sportsbooks partnered with the league. Of course, the NFL isn’t alone either, with every major sports league having deals with sportsbooks. 

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“We’re up to 38 states plus the District of Columbia,” Brandt explained. “The biggest news is the NFL’s bought in. It was hockey first, of course, with the Golden Knights. But the NFL – which, again, taboo forever – couldn’t resist the lure of Vegas. Once they put a team in Vegas with the Raiders, they lost the moral high ground.”

“That’s when fighting that lawsuit for eight years – what are we doing? They’re like putting a team in Vegas and here we go, a Super Bowl in Vegas when gambling was taboo. Now, it’s this tricky box where there’s going to be 700 NFL players making appearances this week. Can they go in casinos? Yes. Can they do appearances in casinos? Yes. But they can’t say anything about the casino. They can’t promote the casino. You have Davante Adams has a deal with the MGM, but he can’t mention the sportsbook. It’s this [delicate] dance now, which again, this is what the NFL bought into.”

Sure, Brandt knows that legal sports betting is better than “going to the back of your barbershop and betting with your bookie.”

Andrew Brandt speaks

Andrew Brandt (Grant Lamos IV/Getty Images for AWXII)

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But with the Super Bowl just days away in a place that was never supposed to sniff an NFL game in the past, the new way of the league’s world is one that Brandt questions.

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