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States could flock to legalized sports betting, post-pandemic

PI review is done, but the NFL Competition Committee will vote on adding an officiating advisor who would monitor for calls missed on the field.

The coronavirus outbreak has devastated the economy and, in turn, busted state budgets, primarily via reduced tax revenues. When the dust settles on a new normal, states will be looking for ways to boost empty coffers.

Enter sports betting. And weed.

States were gradually embracing both traditional vices as legal activities before the pandemic. After the pandemic, both become easy ways for states to raise money by making them permissible and imposing taxes on the transactions.

While the ongoing legalization of marijuana doesn’t matter much to football (at some point, however, the NFL will have no choice but to fully legalize it, too), an accelerated spread of legal betting on sports would be very good for the NFL, creating more revenue opportunities and increasing interest in the sport.

But it also will raise the stakes as to one very important concept for the NFL: Getting calls right. As more and more money is legally bet on football and as bad calls cause millions of dollars to swing one way or the other, the outcry will increase in the aftermath of blunders by officials. Which makes it even more critical for the league to embrace the “sky judge” concept when owners meet virtually this week to vote on potential rule changes.

Whatever they call it and however they do it, the gap must be bridged between the inherently flawed full-speed, naked-eye judgments of boomers trying not to get blown up by the gladiators and the high-def images we all see on TV, from umpteen angles and in super-slow motion. An eighth official who knows the rules and sees what we see is the easiest and best way to bridge that divide -- and in turn to keep legislators and/or prosecutors out of the NFL’s rectal cavity by reducing the kind of errors that would create the kind of reactions that eventually but inevitably invite external oversight.