Written By Tyler Andrews on May 16, 2022
New USFL wins rights to logos trademarks

The USFL dodged its first legal bullet just in time for its season opener. Federal Judge, John Walter, sided with FOX USFL in a preliminary injunction brought against them by the “Real USFL” over the trademarks and logos used by FOX.

The “Real USFL” in this case represents the league formed in the early 80s that brought pro football to America during the spring and summer months. It lasted three years before it took the NFL to court, won, got paid $3 in damages, then disbanded.

The injunction they filed against FOX was over the branding FOX has used in their iteration of the USFL. The Real USFL claims the branding infringes on intellectual property. And, attempts to cash in on the nostalgia of the old league’s success.

While there’s more football to watch, there’s still no legal sports betting in Texas.

If you’re interested in having sports betting available, keep in mind the legislators for whom to vote who support sports betting in Texas. As well as gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke who’s recently been vocal regarding his backing.

The old USFL snoozed and lost

Judge Walter ultimately sided with FOX on two grounds:

  • Timeliness
  • Lack of use by the Real USFL

The timeliness claim focused on the fact that FOX has made their plans for the new USFL known for the last few years. And the 1980s owners at no time contested those plans.

Further, by waiting for the very start of the season to levy their injunction, the old owners’ sudden interest in this upstart league called conspicuous attention to the overall lack of interest in preserving the original league’s legacy over the last forty years.

Walter ruled that FOX’s use of their trademarks and logos would cause no “irreparable harm” to the Real USFL. And, he again pointed to the old owners’ lack of interest in preserving their league’s legacy, stating:

“The Plaintiff asserts its ownership rights in abandoned marks that have been barely used for decades. Plaintiff does not seek to use the marks to promote its own football league that would compete with defendants’ new league, and plaintiff’s members’ activities in the past forty years to preserve the legacy of the old league are virtually nonexistent.”

This decision allows FOX to move forward unimpeded with their new league which plays all games in its 12-week season in Birmingham, AL.

Judge Walter was originally set to rule on the injunction on Monday, Apr. 18, the week following the new USFL’s opening weekend. However, he decided to announce the ruling the previous Thursday. This allowed the league to begin its season without the cloud of doubt hanging over the field.

FOX may advance but a caveat remains

However, Judge Walter’s initial endorsement of FOX’s plans came with a caveat. Walter stated in his decision that the original USFL owners had some credence in their injunction and that the old league “will likely prevail on its trademark infringement claim.”

The old USFL’s lawyer Nicholas T. Matich had this to say after the Judge’s ruling:

“We are very pleased at the court’s ruling on the merits that Fox ‘deliberately decided to launch their new league using the same names and teams as the old league in an apparent attempt to capitalize on the nostalgia for the old league.’ It is also satisfying to see the court reject what it called Fox’s ‘incredibly disingenuous argument.’

Although the court is letting Fox move ahead with its league, for now, Fox is doing so on a foundation it didn’t build. The court’s ruling shows that the rights of the people that built the original league will ultimately be vindicated.”

What Judge Walter’s caveat likely means for FOX is some sort of settlement. Where the old owners make a cut on the profits off the new league’s merchandising.

What it most likely doesn’t mean though is that FOX’s new league will have to change its appearance in any meaningful way. So, all those Houston Gambler fans out there can proudly wear their team gear in confidence.

Whether the ratings are there to keep the team and league afloat, well, that’s another story.

Photo by Butch Dill/Associated Press
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Tyler is the Managing Editor of play-texas.com, covering sports, sports law, and gambling for the Lone Star State. He also contributes on similar topics for PlayCA, PlayFlorida, PlayOhio, and PlayMA. Tyler’s current focus is Texas’s pathway to gaming legalization.

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Written By Darren Cooper on May 13, 2022
USFL's Birmingham Stallions are undefeated.

As the midway point of the new United States Football League regular season approaches, a review shows the has USFL delivered both touchdowns and turnovers.

A few truths are evident:

  • The games are competitive.
  • The ratings are decent.
  • It still has a long way to go.
  • You can’t bet on the games in Texas.

Spring football has never fit in to the American sports calendar. Many have tried. Many will try again. In fact, another spring football league, XFL 3.0, is slated to play this time next year.

This spring, the new USFL has eight teams playing games in two different stadiums in Birmingham, AL. It’s supported by FOX Sports, which covers the main expenses and gives the league plenty of airtime.

Through four weeks, the average margin of victory is 8.6 points. That number is skewed by a 31-point New Orleans Breakers win in Week 2. Take that out and the margin is 7.2. The average number of points per USFL game is 38.3. That’s a little low, but not too bad. NFL games are around 47 points.

Touchdowns and turnovers

Touchdown: The games

The past week in the USFL saw New Orleans Breakers quarterback Kyle Sloter (formerly of the Minnesota Vikings and Denver Broncos) connect on a nice back-shoulder throw with 10 seconds left to give his team a win over Houston.

In the first game of the weekend, the USFL saw another game come down to a last-second field goal, this one a 21-yard miss by Michael Carrizosa. It let the Philadelphia Stars win, 27-26.

If you like football games that go down to the end, the USFL has delivered that. We will forgive the 21-yard miss.

Turnover: The Pittsburgh Maulers

The Maulers were the talk of the league early after a weird video emerged of coach Kirby Wilson cutting running back De’Veon Wilson after a cafeteria incident. The whole thing was uncomfortable to watch. Wilson may have thought he was appearing to be a disciplinarian who deserved respect, but it came across as petty.

In the 21st century, you are what social media says you are, and young football players are influenced by what is on there. Coach Wilson seemed overmatched in the moment. His team’s response has been brutal. The Maulers are the only team in the USFL without a win. The team has scored a league-low 39 points.

Touchdown: Cameras everywhere

When you don’t care (yet) about the people playing in the games and fans only have a loose affiliation to a team, the best thing the USFL can offer is ground-breaking television. We’ve seen:

  • Referee cams
  • Helmet cams
  • Inside-the-instant-replay booth cam

This is truly bringing viewers inside football like never before.

Turnover: Communication issues

Another unique aspect of the USFL is during games, viewers at home can hear conversations between players and coaches, including the play being called in the huddle.

You would think this type of information would be fun, but instead, it’s confusing. While it might be cool to hear Houston quarterback Clayton Thorson say, “Blue Right, 486 wing sluggo, X over, on two” calling out the play, formation and signal in the huddle, none of the viewers know what that means. It’s a different language and something we just don’t need to hear.

Touchdown: Embracing betting

USFL broadcasts practically blare out the point spread and over/under number at the start of the broadcast. One way to certainly gain some interest in casual fans is to not ignore the fact that, you know, people are betting on the games.

My one rule of USFL gambling so far is bet against the Maulers. Trust me on this.

Turnover: Focus on Birmingham

Whether a coincidence or not, the Birmingham Stallions are the league’s only unbeaten team at 4-0. They are technically the only home team in the USFL. The league hasn’t given attendance numbers, but it’s obvious people in Birmingham aren’t going to see any USFL games involving teams with no connection to the area.

This was always going to be a problem, though, when the USFL decided to play all the games in one city. The league can hope for one of two things. Either the Stallions remain undefeated and increase the fan base, or the rest of America starts seeing them as the villains and root against them.

Touchdown: Television ratings

The most important number in any sporting event these days isn’t the number of fans in the stands. It’s the number of eyeballs on the telecast and social media hits.

The first game of the USFL saw it receive about 3 million viewers on a game simulcast on FOX and NBC. Those numbers have leveled off, as expected, to around 1 million on games on FOX in Week 3. That still holds up well compared to regular season baseball games and NHL playoff games.

While definitely part of the the league’s strategy, putting games on pay-to-watch apps like Peacock will not help grow interest in the USFL.

Turnover: Unsolvable problems

By giving the teams the same names as the old USFL back in 1983-1985, it gave the league a whiff of nostalgia, but who remembers the best rivalries from the old league? (I do. The Philadelphia Stars and New Jersey Generals were one. So were the Jacksonville Bulls and Tampa Bay Bandits, the Memphis Showboats and Birmingham Stallions, and the Houston Gamblers and Los Angeles Express).

We watch the NFL because it’s awesome, but also because we know about the rivalry between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants and the tradition of Thanksgiving games. It’s all a part of the fabric of the NFL product. The USFL doesn’t have that, and won’t for a long time, if ever.

The old USFL could at least claim some of the best players in the world playing for big bucks as a way to stick it to the NFL. This USFL is decent Triple-A football. Nothing more.

Photo by Butch Deal/Associated Press
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Darren Cooper was born and raised in Southern Louisiana, just a short pirogue ride away from New Orleans. He started his journalism career at the New Orleans Times-Picayune and has been a writer and columnist in New Jersey since 1998. He’s won 14 statewide press awards and earned his first Associated Press Sports Editors Top 10 award in 2022.

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Written By Fairway Jay on May 10, 2022Last Updated on May 12, 2022
PGA Tour AT&T Byron Nelson

The PGA pros return to the Lone Star State for the AT&T Byron Nelson May 12-15. The 7,468-yard, par-72 course at TPC Craig Ranch 30 miles north of Dallas is a staple event on Tour, and plays host for the second straight year.

Two of the leading favorites to win the tournament are Texas’ own Scottie Scheffler and Jordan Spieth. Fans that enjoy watching golfers make birdies and shoot low scores should tune in, as South Korea’s K.H. Lee won his first PGA Tour title at last year’s event with a 25-under-par score of 263.

Follow other Texas sports betting news, and fourth-generation Texan and former congressman Beto O’Rourke‘s support for legalized casino gambling and sports betting, at PlayTexas.

Top golfers in 2022 Byron Nelson

If there were legalized sports betting in Texas, both No. 1-ranked Scottie Scheffler and No. 9 Jordan Spieth would get the most attention from golf bettors in the Lone Star State. Scheffler is already a four-time winner on Tour this year, and that includes a Green Jacket victory at the Masters. Spieth won the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town last month the week after the Masters.

Jordan Spieth is twice a winner in his native Texas, but never at the Byron Nelson. Spieth did tie for ninth in last year’s event at TPC Craig Ranch. A purse of $9.1 million and a first-place prize of more than $1.5 million await the winner, which favors the leading players below according to sports betting odds at leading online sportsbooks.

Top players in the field include: World Golf Ranking (OWGR)

Scottie Scheffler (1) Hideki Matsuyama (13)
Justin Thomas (8) Brooks Koepka (16)
Jordan Spieth (9) Joaquin Niemann (17)
Sam Burns (10) Will Zalatoris (28)
Dustin Johnson (11) Kevin Kisner (30)
Xander Schauffele (12)

Other stars and top 50 ranked players playing this week include:

  • Jason Kokrak
  • Talor Gooch
  • Adam Scott
  • Tom Hoge
  • Seamus Power
  • Tommy Fleetwood
  • Bubba Watson

Dustin Johnson is in action for the first time since his wedding to Paulina Gretzky last month in Tennessee. Paulina is the daughter of NHL legend Wayne Gretzky.

Texas golfers playing in AT&T Byron Nelson

Along with top-ranked golfers Scottie Scheffler and Jordan Spieth, other golfers with Texas ties playing this week include former Highland Park resident and Texas Longhorn golfer Justin Leonard, 49. He’ll come out of the broadcast booth and tee it up in competition for his first PGA Tour start since the 2017 Valero Texas Open.

  • Cameron Champ: Houston, Texas A&M
  • Ryan Palmer: Colleyville, Texas A&M
  • Harry Higgs: Dallas, SMU
  • Will Zalatoris: Plano
  • Kelly Kraft: Denton, SMU
  • Austin Smotherman: Dallas, SMU
  • Sebastian Munoz: University of North Texas
  • Carlos Ortiz: University of North Texas

Also, J.J. Killeen, who lives in Lubbock and played golf at Texas Christian University (TCU), earned a spot in this week’s PGA Tour event. He won last fall’s 36-hole Joyce Crane-Veritex Bank Section Championship at Midland Country Club to secure a spot in this year’s AT&T Byron Nelson tournament. Killeen was the 2011 Korn Ferry Tour Player of the Year.

A stronger field of golfers come to Texas and shoot for low scores in preparation for the second Major of the year. Next week it’s the PGA Championship, 225 miles North in Tulsa, OK at Southern Hills Country Club.

Top finishers at TPC Craig Ranch returning this year:

K.H. Lee (-25) Won Joe Bramlett (T7)
Sam Burns (-22, 2nd) Seamus Power (T9)
Patton Kizzire (T3) Jordan Spieth (T9)
Charl Schwartzel (T3) Doc Redman (T9)
Scott Stallings (T3) Jhonatten Vegas (T9)

Who will contend or win this week at TPC Craig Ranch? Golf outcomes continue to be difficult to predict, despite Scottie Scheffler making it look easier this year with four PGA Tour wins, including a Major at The Masters. Scheffler is well on his way to becoming PGA Tour Player of the Year.

Last year, AT&T Byron Nelson champion K.H. Lee won for the first time on Tour, and he had one of his best-ever putting weeks. Lee entered the tournament on a streak of six consecutive events in which he lost strokes putting. His putting stats this year according to strokes gained data over his last 50 rounds rank outside the top 125 players in this year’s Byron Nelson field.

Strong approach play and a hot putter will send the best golfers to the first page of the leaderboard, and making tons of birdies is required to contend. Last year, there were 14 rounds of 8-under par or better during the tournament at TPC Craig Ranch.

The top-15 players in Birdies-or-Better Gained over their last 50 rounds playing this week are:

Scheffler Vegas Watson
Thomas McNealy Zalatoris
Johnson List Power
Burns Swafford Mitchell
Riley Griffin Niemann

TPC at Craig Ranch

Designed by Tom Weiskopf with consultation from D.A. Weibring, TPC Craig Ranch opened for play in 2004. The course hosts the AT&T Byron Nelson for the second-straight year of a six-year agreement, and the course has also hosted events for the PGA’s Korn Ferry Tour.

TPC Craig Ranch features wide open Zoysia fairways and large, receptive bentgrass greens. The rough is Bermuda grass and Rowlett Creek runs through the property and crosses 14 of the 18 holes.

The course is easy by PGA Tour standards, and another shootout is expected after 60 golfers finished last year’s tournament 10-under par or better. As you watch the event, the toughest scoring holes are the two par 4s at holes No. 16 (492 yards) and No. 13 (512 yards) and the two par 3s longer than 210 yards at No. 4 and No. 15.

Last year, the easiest holes that yielded birdies at a 50% rate or better were the par 5’s at No. 5, 12 and 18 with the finishing hole playing as the easiest hole on the golf course.

Also, stadium-style seating and grandstands surround No. 17, a short par 3. This creates another party-style atmosphere for this year’s PGA Tour event.

Record interest and added festivities

The tournament has drawn a record number of ticket sales, and concerts and live music will be incorporated into the golf event. Seven-time Academy of Country Music award winner and Grammy-nominated artist Lee Brice will be performing as part of the sold-out festivities.

Clay Duvall, the 2022 AT&T Byron Nelson tournament chair, said:

“We’ve already sold more general public tickets than we ever sold in 2018 and 2019. We’ve added a number of venues with more than 100 sponsors on hole 17 alone.”

You can find more tournament news on Twitter and PGATour.com.

Rain-free weather with low 90’s temperatures and the usual Texas winds are in the forecast for this year’s tournament. Last year’s tournament was pelted with rain showers, and a two-hour delay had players scrambling during the final round at TPC Craig Ranch.

Photo by Ray Carlin/Associated Press
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FairwayJay is a leading national sports and betting analyst. He reports, researches and writes on industry news and events providing insight and information you can bet on to engage and assist the avid fan. FairwayJay’s tee-to-green coverage and contributions are provided throughout the PlayUSA network. Follow on Twitter: @FairwayJay

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Written By Tyler Andrews on May 11, 2022
BetMGM Astros MLB Texas sports betting

In the first deal of its kind in Texas, the Houston Astros signed a partnership Monday with BetMGM. This makes the operator the team’s official sports betting partner.

This may appear to be a strange partnership considering the prevailing anti-gaming sentiment in the Texas legislature. However, BetMGM’s partnership allows them to make inroads with their online sportsbook in neighboring Louisiana, where rival online sportsbooks are currently fighting to gain a foothold.

Further, in the lead-up to Texas’s 2023 legislative session, BetMGM’s deal gets them on the ground should the Lone Star State decide to legalize sports betting.

BetMGM’s presence in Minute Maid Park

Currently, what this deal means for Astros fans in Texas is not much beyond the stadium experience. The Astros give BetMGM the following as part of the deal:

  • Prominent signage at Minute Maid Park
  • A rotating message board behind the home plate
  • VIP experiences for BetMGM members, like throwing out the first pitch and on-field access during batting practice
  • VIP getaways to away games

This partnership marks BetMGM’s first deal in Texas. It makes them the second team in the state to partner with a sportsbook. In August of last year, the Houston Texans and Caesars signed a multi-year deal.

BetMGM CEO Adam Greenblatt reacted to the deal, stating:

“The Houston Astros are a monumental addition to our portfolio of strategic partnerships with professional sports teams across the U.S. The organization’s passionate fan base will be key to the growth of BetMGM throughout the South as we look for new ways to engage fans with unique experiences that go beyond the game.”

Capitalizing on the broad Astros market

The competition between BetMGM and Caesars extends into the Louisiana gaming landscape as well.

Currently, Caesars has an extensive deal with the Saints including the naming rights to the Superdome. The first stadium in the country named after a sports betting company. They also have an exclusive partnership with LSU. In the NBA, the Pelicans have deals with FanDuel, BetRivers, and Harrah’s.

BetMGM’s deal with the Astros lands them a puddle-jumper flight away from the Superdome in a baseball market that reaches into Louisiana and has historical roots with New Orleans. For practical purposes, baseball fans in Louisiana are currently blacked out from watching “in-market” Astros games.

Historically, Louisiana tends to split allegiances a number of ways, with the Braves and the Astros being the most common affiliations. This affiliation runs much deeper with Houston, a deep south hub that vied with New Orleans for a major league baseball team.

When Houston got a major league team (the Colt. 45s in 1962 becoming the Astros in 1965) New Orleans fans who had never had access to major league baseball due to segregation laws forged a connection. While some New Orleanians lean more towards the Braves, they were a northern relocation project. The Astros were southern to the core.

For Astros fans in Louisiana, the BetMGM deal allows them to benefit from betting on their team from the comfort of their couch. Should Texas legalize sports gambling in the future, though, a firm Astros fan base exists right across the border. And, they’re waiting to come to the ballpark and spend their money gambling on the Astros on Texas soil.

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Tyler is the Managing Editor of play-texas.com, covering sports, sports law, and gambling for the Lone Star State. He also contributes on similar topics for PlayCA, PlayFlorida, PlayOhio, and PlayMA. Tyler’s current focus is Texas’s pathway to gaming legalization.

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Written By Tyler Andrews on May 9, 2022
Dallas Stars Stanley Cup odds

What to call the 2021-2022 Dallas Stars: Overpowering, underwhelming, semi-charged, potent, stuck in neutral, frenetic, disciplined? Depending on when you were watching, all of them fit the bill. And all of them seem much more appropriate than “wildcard playoff team,” but, as it happens, here we are.

How did the exceptionally bi-modal Stars careen their way into a playoff berth? Here is some Dallas Stars trivia to digest as you watch them battle it out against the Flames. And for the trivia geeks out there, don’t get too worked up. The answers are all, “the Dallas Stars.” Seriously.

The Dallas Stars have been an exciting playoff team the past few seasons, and they’ve made some happy campers out of fans who bet on them. Can you gamble on sports in Texas? Sadly, no. You’ve got to cross state lines if you want to put some action on the Stanley Cup playoffs.

If that drive to Winstar in Oklahoma is getting old, let your state representative know. The 2023 legislative session is the next chance to bring legal gaming to the voters.

Special teams play

Q. Which NHL team’s power-play started top ten but finished bottom ten?

A. The Dallas Stars (see?). The PP lines through the first half of the season stayed pretty consistent, but the Stars shook things up in the second half as the team struggled.

Change can be good, but it can also create confusion. After the All-Star break, the Stars inconsistent PP spent most of the time chasing pucks, and Jamie Benn, swatting an occasional rebound, looked just plain bored. Going into the playoffs, the Stars have returned to their early season PP units in hopes of turning it around.

Q. Which NHL team’s penalty kill started bottom ten but finished top ten?

A. Surprise! It’s the Dallas Stars. The Stars gave up six power-play opportunities and three PP goals to the Canucks on Nov. 8, and that awful performance was enough for Coach Bowness to call shenanigans on the Stars’ on-ice work ethic.

Radek Faksa, one of the Stars’ best PK players, said after the game, “we’re doing stupid stuff on the ice.” He said some other things too, but that pretty much captured it. Since then, the Stars have turned the PK around and played their usual brand of lock-down-grind-out defense that frustrates opposing teams. But more importantly, it’s led to this…

Q. Which team took the fewest penalties this season?

A. Stars again. Giving up 251 penalties put them two above the next least-penalized team (Pittsburgh), and 140 (wow!) above the most penalized team (Nashville). One way to keep your PK units fresh is–how’d Faksa put it?–stop doing stupid stuff on the ice.

Matching up against the rest of the league

Q. What was the only team to beat the Avalanche twice in regulation and lose twice in regulation to the worst-in-the-West Coyotes?

A. That would be the Stars. Over the past two seasons, the Stars have played their high-powered division rivals tough. They’re 6-1 against the Avalanche, with the only loss coming this past February.

They’ve outscored Colorado 19-12 over that stretch, never giving up more than two goals per game except for Colorado’s lone win where they gave up four. On the flip side, the Stars gave up seven goals to Arizona in their two losses to them this season.

Q. Which Western Conference team split the season series against the President’s Trophy-winning Florida Panthers, AND the worst-in-the-NHL Montreal Canadiens?

A. The freakin’ Stars. They got beat around the boards in both games against the Panthers, giving up 12 goals in the two games, but they fought for a 6-5 OT win this January in Dallas, which became a signature moment for the team.

On the other side of signature games, the Stars lost 5-3 in Dallas to the Canadiens and surrendered eight goals over two games to the Habs.

The Stars lineup

Q. Which NHL team’s top line accounted for the highest percentage of the team’s goals?

A. The Stars’ top line got off to a slow start this season, but no one remembers that. After about week three, Roope Hintz, Joe Pavelski, and Jason Robertson took over. And, frankly, that’s what Stars fans expected from this line.

Pavs, the seasoned vet, a solid two-way center or winger, was the savvy anchor. Hintz, an emerging star at center and wing, could fly, score, and create. His hockey IQ is off the charts, and his performance this year confirmed the glimmers of brilliance he showed in stretches last year.

Finally, Robertson, the young gun, brilliant in his first year, continued the scoring onslaught this year, at a furious pace. In the end, they accounted for 46% of the team’s goals. Tops in the league.

Dallas Stars Trivia: Were You Paying Attention This Year? 2

Q. Which playoff team’s starting goalie started the season fourth on the team’s depth chart?

A. You know this one! But grab a seat. The lead-up is complicated.

Ben Bishop was on the decline but no one quite knew why. He had been injured off and on since 2019 but made a heroic return to net in the 2020 playoffs against Colorado. This decision would mark the end for Bishop.

He got blown out of the net by the Avalanche, cementing Anton Khudobin’s spot in the net and leaving Stars fans wondering what had happened to their franchise net minder. Bishop, after a stint in the AHL, found out the sobering truth in December of last year: Torn meniscus; career over.

Backtrack a little to the start of this season, and the Stars knew Bishop was a risky bet, so they signed Capitals goalie Braden Holtby in free agency to a one-year deal. He and Khudobin traded starts pretty evenly in the net. If Bishop got healthy, he’d be third.

Well, in December of last year, Bishop got the aforementioned bad news. Not long after, the Stars waived Khudobin who had suddenly lost his form and then got injured. They were left with Holtby, a solid number one net minder, and Jake Oettinger, a call-up from the AHL team, as his backup.

Then in January, Holtby got hurt and landed on the IR, and Oettinger was the last man standing. He’s stepped up big, going 30-15-1 this season with a .914 save percentage. That’s some focused work for a guy who had three franchise-type goalies in front of him to start the year.

Dallas Stars will need some magic

If the Dallas Stars are going to give the Flames a run, it’s going to take solid goaltending and scoring. And that’s where the Stars will need some magic. After the first line, the play dries up quickly.

Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn have to produce, which they haven’t done much. This isn’t new for the Stars though. In the past few years, their playoff runs have all been the unexpected result of scrappy play, hard-nosed hockey, and a timely goal or two.

That team’s still there. Let’s hope they flip the switch at the right time.

Photo by Brandon Wade/Associated Press
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Tyler Andrews

Tyler is the Managing Editor of play-texas.com, covering sports, sports law, and gambling for the Lone Star State. He also contributes on similar topics for PlayCA, PlayFlorida, PlayOhio, and PlayMA. Tyler’s current focus is Texas’s pathway to gaming legalization.

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Written By Marian Rosin on May 5, 2022
what's behind a Kentucky Derby horse name?

As fun as the Kentucky Derby is, the horses’ names come in a really close second.

Horses running for the Roses usually have one-of-a-kind names, a result of official registration rules and, often, ancestry — and this year is no different.

No plain old “Lucky” or “Sugar” among the 2022 Derby horse names. Even though those two are in the top 20 of last year’s 100 most popular horse names.

And Benedict Cumberbatch, X Æ A-12 Musk, Moon Zappa, and Englebert Humperdink would like to have a word with any of the Churchill Downs racers whinnying about their “unusual” Derby horse names.

Texas horse betting is a popular pastime, so head over to your nearest racetrack in Arlington, Fredericksburg, Houston, or Selma to get in on the action. At the moment, there are no online horse betting platforms available.

However, if you are interested in seeing more gambling options in the Lone Start State then keep an eye on key lawmakers working to make it happen.

What’s in a Derby winner’s name?

Perhaps one of the most amusing Derby winner’s names is 2012’s I’ll Have Another. It immediately conjures up a picture of a drunk horse in a bar at closing time, possibly crooning Frank Sinatra’s “One for My Baby.”

Maybe he could have a drink or two with 1994’s winner, Go for Gin.

2010’s winner Super Saver sounds like the poor horse was purchased at a local A&P. With coupons, of course.

Unintentionally, probably, 2016’s Nyquist reminds us of cold medicine.

And when his owners named the 1932 winner Burgoo King, they couldn’t have foreseen the future’s fast-food boom. (For the record, the first Burger King opened 22 years later in Miami).

When you think about it, really, who wouldn’t like a Derby winner named Charismatic, just like the 1999 first-place finisher?

The most intimidating Derby-winner moniker? Assault in 1946.

And maybe it’s not a coincidence that Assault and the next year’s winner, Jet Pilot, ran in the first years following the end of World War II.

The Most Ironic Name Award goes to Maximum Security. The three-year-old thoroughbred finished first in the 2019 Kentucky Derby but got controversially disqualified for interference.

The Itchiest Name belonged to non-winner Wool Sandals in 2007.

The first Kentucky Derby winner was Aristides in 1875. Other winners with fun, quirky, unique names have included:

Apollo, 1882 Spectacular Bid, 1979
Lieut. Gibson, 1900 Sunny’s Halo, 1983
Judge Himes, 1903 Spend a Buck, 1985
Pink Star, 1907 Funny Cide, 2003
Behave Yourself, 1921 Smarty Jones, 2004
Bubbling Over, 1926 Street Sense, 2007
Twenty Grand, 1931 Always Dreaming, 2017
Needles, 1956 Justify, 2018
Venetian Way, 1960 Country House, 2019
Foolish Pleasure, 1975 Authentic, 2020

How Kentucky Derby racers get their monikers

Sometimes horses get their names from one or both of their parents, like several of this year’s contenders, including Summer Is Tomorrow and Crown Pride.

Sometimes a horse gets named after a notable characteristic, like one-eyed Un Ojo. (He was pulled from Derby entry this year.)

The Jockey Club handles the registration of horse names. Horses have to be named by Feb. 1 of the year they are two years old or an additional fee is required.

The Jockey Club lists 17 restrictions on horse names, including no names:

  • With more than 18 letters (spaces and punctuation count)
  • Of living people unless the person in question has filed permission with the Jockey Club
  • With vulgar or obscene names
  • Of horses in racing’s Hall of Fame
  • That have “commercial significance”
  • Consisting solely of numbers or solely of initials

The Jockey Club has final approval of any name.

The stories behind the names of this year’s Derby horses

Jon Hale of the Louisville Courier-Journal looks behind the names of this year’s Derby contenders. Here’s some of what he found:

  • Cyberknife got his name from owner Al Gold’s procedure for prostate cancer. Gold told the Courier-Journal that he “wanted to get the word out” that although a diagnosis of cancer causes fear, prostate cancer can be treated.
  • The inspiration behind Tawny Port’s name is a Portuguese wine.
  • Happy Jack apparently possesses a “sunny demeanor.” His owners gave him the other half of his name at birth.

And sometimes owners can’t really even explain how they came up with a name, like the owners of this year’s Derby favorite, Epicenter.

The closest the thoroughbred’s owner could get to explaining the name? Maybe there was “some reporting or a Weather Channel story about earthquakes at the time that subliminally entered our consciousness.”

Photo by Al Behrman/Associated Press
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Written By Darren Cooper on May 4, 2022
New USFL Survival Odds

The United States Football League ranks up there with He-Man figures and Star Wars as one of the principal obsessions of my childhood.

I loved the USFL so much, that I would call a friend on the phone and he would give me play-by-play of games since he had cable television (and some wild thing called ESPN) and I didn’t.

With the new incarnation of the USFL launching this month in Birmingham, I am awash in memories and nostalgia.

The Houston Gamblers and the run and shoot offense.

The New Jersey Generals “Million Dollar Backfield” (Brian Sipe, Herschel Walker and Maurice Carthon).

Bandit ball in Florida.

It was all so fun. It had no chance.

What can this new USFL do to find a niche in the American sports world, and does it have a chance?

Sorry, aspiring legal Texas sports bettors, this option is not available to you just yet. But, with some luck, the benefits of offering legal sports betting will help change the minds of those in opposition in the near future.

Most importantly, let’s temper expectations

This might be the most important thing for the eight-team league to do.

Everyone is going to examine the television ratings and the small number of fans in the stands and compare them to NFL or college crowds, or the MLB ratings. They’re going to look at the attendance and instantly declare whether the league will survive.

It’s fools’ gold. Ratings were strong for the first week and then dropped off. The quality of play has remained strong and the games are competitive. Attendance has only been fair for the games the local team Birmingham has played in.

Recognize, how big is the audience for a spring football minor league? It’s not that big. Spring is about baseball season, proms, and graduation. Soon it will be summer and going to the beach. Not many people are interested in a minor league football operation.

The USFL can’t immediately lose in the battle of public opinion when the ratings drop. Sports still draw big ratings when compared to other television programs. The USFL ratings will look good compared to other serial TV shows, NHL playoffs but not the Super Bowl.

It’s about the quarterbacks

Football at every level is all about quarterbacks. In the pros, it means leadership, throwing accuracy and grace under fire.

In college football, throw in the same characteristics, but also a bit more athleticism. Great college quarterbacks are usually run-pass threats. Even in high school football, the trend is to just make your best athlete the quarterback and let him (or her) run the football.

The thing is, there just aren’t that many good quarterbacks out there. The USFL should do everything it can to let as many quarterbacks play, either mandate two each play a half or something. It’s the one position left in sports that needs real playing time to develop.

If the USFL can find one or two excellent quarterbacks, it would go a long way toward making it relevant.

Innovation, thy name internet

Sports leagues still struggle with this. It can be confusing for a local sports fan to find out when/where/what channel their favorite team is on.

The USFL needs to make it easy for fans to find the games, and have them when they want, where they want.

Streaming of every game on any device on demand. That’s the only way you’ll spark a new generation of fans.

As far as the on-the-field gameplay, sure, a new first down measuring system is nice, and a faster-paced game with new overtime and extra point rules grabs some headlines, but it won’t keep fans tuning in every week.

Besides, this is not the NFL, the USFL is not going to be appointment viewing, especially not at the start.

I give the USFL a ton of credit for being innovative already. The draft was on Twitter, with each pick being posted as it happened. It already has created a cool visual identity for the teams.

It went with eight of the old franchise names, catnip for old guys like me, but gave the logos a 21st-century spin.

Yes, the old USFL was last century.

But, all the best players are already taken

The old USFL had some of the best players in the world at the time. Eventual Pro Football Hall of Famers played in the USFL, like:

  • Jim Kelly
  • Reggie White
  • Steve Young
  • Sam Mills

Team names were original, the color schemes were rad. The gameplay was excellent.

Yes, sure, Donald Trump kind of loused things up, but still, the league was never a major ratings hit. I don’t see how the new USFL lasts very long either.

What is always evident whenever one of these new football leagues show up is that all the stars are taken already.

New USFL games will be plodding dull affairs, why? Because all the best players are already taken.

It will be a league of a bunch of players who all run 4.6 in the 40-yard dash.

There won’t be many (if any) stars that emerge. In a way, that kind of balance is cool, it places a premium on execution and strategy, but America doesn’t want to see that over and over again.

It wants the 75-yard touchdown run, the 2-minute drill, and the game-winning field goal. That’s where I see the USFL falling short. That’s the critic in me.

The 10-year-old in me still remembers the phone calls to my friends to get the live updates.

The 10-year-old hopes the league succeeds despite itself.

Photo by Butch Dill/Associated Press
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Darren Cooper was born and raised in Southern Louisiana, just a short pirogue ride away from New Orleans. He started his journalism career at the New Orleans Times-Picayune and has been a writer and columnist in New Jersey since 1998. He’s won 14 statewide press awards and earned his first Associated Press Sports Editors Top 10 award in 2022.

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Written By Rylee Bailey on April 28, 2022
Dallas AT&T Stadium 2026 World Cup host site

AT&T Stadium has a rich history of hosting some of the most prominent sporting and entertainment events, such as the:

  • Super Bowl
  • College Football Playoff National Championship
  • NCAA Final Four
  • NBA All-Star Game
  • WrestleMania
  • UFC prizefights
  • Concerts from Taylor Swift, the Eagles, the Rolling Stones and George Strait

So a World Cup Final would unquestionably be the greatest in the stadium’s history. Dallas Sports Commission executive director Monica Paul said:

“We want Dallas to be on the international stage for sports and we are committed more than ever to being a World Cup Host City in 2026. Our central location in the U.S., our two major airports in DFW International and Dallas Love Field, along with our great facilities in AT&T Stadium, Fair Park and Cotton Bowl Stadium, and Toyota Stadium make Dallas an ideal location to host.”

While various Texas pro sports teams and owners, including Mark Cuban, have all voiced their support of sports betting, it is not yet legal in Texas.

However, the winds are shifting and there’s hope we could see legal Texas sports betting in 2023.

2026 World Cup: A multi-national sporting event

The 2026 FIFA World Cup will feature 48 teams from all over the world. Matches will take place in Canada, Mexico and the United States. The North American 2026 bid beat a rival bid from Morocco during a final vote at the 68th FIFA Congress in Moscow.

This will be the first World Cup since 2002 that will be hosted by more than one nation and the first by more than two.

Dallas aims to host six matches, the World Cup Final or a semifinal match. And hopes to serve as the home of the World Cup Broadcast Center.

“We have shown over time that we host major events well and showcase sports unlike anywhere in the country,” Paul said.

“We want events here to be the biggest, set apart from when they’re hosted in other cities or other countries. Our communities really pride ourselves in thinking outside of the box and focusing on unique experiences, not only for the athletes, coaches and staff but also the fans. We want to make this a historic World Cup in 2026.”

AT&T Stadium more than fits the bill

AT&T Stadium’s bid book capacity stated the facility can hold 92,967 fans for the tournament — the largest of any city vying for 2026 World Cup matches. There is also room to increase that number, according to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. On top of the potential financial boon from the World Cup, Jones has been pushing for sports betting in Texas.

“We have the ability to take (our bid book capacity) up another 15,000 or so for the World Cup,” Jones said. “Our stadium, without a doubt, can handle more fans than anybody that is bidding for the World Cup, which creates great revenue for the sport, and also creates a fabulous show.”

AT&T Stadium has many advantages compared to its rival bidding hosts. Performing field modifications for the facility is second nature. FIFA requires all matches to be played on real grass.

AT&T Stadium was designed to meet requirements of this nature whereas some of its competitors might find it difficult to perform such modifications. The stadium’s retractable roof is another advantage. Because, the ability to control the climate will allow for “perfect weather” Jones says.

Jones also believes that choosing AT&T Stadium as a 2026 World Cup site will also allow for a better viewing experience for those at the stadium and also those viewing from home. He said:

“Our stadium itself attracts viewers. The stadium was built for the people in the stands, but it was made state of the art and the size it is for the 30 million people that watch the Dallas Cowboys play on television. The stadium creates an atmosphere that projects, and to me, the World Cup should take advantage of that.”

Dallas’ soccer legacy

Dallas is also looking to build upon its rich football culture as a 2026 World Cup host city. The city became the home of the Dallas Burn in 1995. In 2004, the team was renamed FC Dallas.

Dallas also serves as the Mexican National Team’s home away from home. Since 2019, the Mexican National Team has trained in Dallas and has played international matches at AT&T Stadium during the Mexican National Team U.S. Tour.

Dallas also hosted the 1994 World Cup at the Cotton Bowl.

North Texas is also a hotspot for the common soccer player and fan.

Today, North Texas has nearly 176,000 registered soccer players. And, it is home to the second-largest youth soccer community in the United States.

US Youth Soccer, the largest youth sports organization in the country, also calls the DFW region home. The National Soccer Hall of Fame is also housed in the DFW metroplex city of Frisco.

Photo by Ron Jenkins / Associated Press
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Rylee Bailey

Rylee Bailey is an award-winning freelance journalist from Texas. She is wrapping up her senior year at Southern Methodist University and has been writing since she was in high school. Previously, Rylee covered North Texas High School football for the Dallas Morning News and has bylines in Casino Player and the Kaufman Herald.

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Written By Tyler Andrews on April 25, 2022Last Updated on April 26, 2022
NFL's first crypto currency partnership

In 2014, ESPN and BitPay established one of the first notable crypto-marketing initiatives.

Since then, sports teams, tournaments, racing teams, and even individual sporting matches have all made crypto partnerships.

Some of the earliest partnerships took place abroad with European football clubs. But now, as more and more people are using cryptocurrencies, crypto firms have become an integral feature in the landscape.

Add the effects of COVID-19 into the mix, pushing people away from live sports for almost two years, and you have a disparate, global sports fan base looking for a way to reconnect.

With this in mind, the NFL owners meeting in Palm Beach, FL concluded that teams could pen sponsorship deals with crypto firms. It wouldn’t be the first in the pro sports arena, as the NBA has also partnered with crypto.

Dallas Cowboys partner with Blockchain.com

The Dallas Cowboys, the NFL’s highest-valued team, struck first by announcing the first NFL crypto-partnership with Blockchain.com earlier this month.

The team hasn’t announced the price of the deal, but, by comparison, crypto.com bought the naming rights to the Staples Center (home to the Lakers, Clippers, Kings, and Sparks) last year for $700 million.

Blockchain.com CEO Peter Smith said in response to the deal:

“We chose to partner with the Cowboys because they represent the most trusted brand in professional sports, they compete with a champion mindset and believe in long-term partnerships. Growing up in rural America where football is deeply rooted in the culture, I’m incredibly honored to join forces with the world’s most valuable sports franchise and the Jones family, who have dedicated their lives to building a first-class franchise on and off the field for 33 years.”

For his part, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones added the following:

“Blockchain.com is one of the oldest and most trusted digital asset platforms in the world, has easy-to-use products and remains relentlessly focused on customers. They are bringing Wall Street to Main Street by making digital assets available to anyone, anywhere in the world – and that’s a touchdown for our millions of global fans. We take pride in being the first team in the NFL to sign an official cryptocurrency partnership, and are proud to venture into this innovative business with Blockchain.com.“

What this deal means for fans

The Blockchain.com deal means that the crypto firm will have an obvious visible presence at AT&T Stadium and in the various media forms where the Cowboys are distributed.

This includes:

  • A club space for Blockchain.com at AT&T Stadium
  • The right to social and digital content across Dallas Cowboys platforms
  • Signage in the stadium
  • TV and Radio advertising spots

Jerry Jones is no stranger to novel partnerships. In 2018, the Cowboys became the first team to partner with a casino. They signed a deal with Winstar Resort in Thackerville, OK.

The Cowboys and the NFL have, for the moment, offered only a limited range of options for using crypto technology. They have not yet allowed cryptocurrency as a form of payment at AT&T Stadium, but they will allow for exclusive fan experiences that include trips to away games with VIP-level experiences as well as opportunities to attend special events hosted by players.

However, as other leagues (especially international football leagues) have shown, cryptocurrencies can pay for:

  • Tickets
  • Memorabilia
  • Food and drinks at games
  • In some cases, player contracts

Looking to the future of crypto in sports

Cryptocurrencies, NFTs and blockchain technology continue to take hold of professional sports, and sports betting. If and when legalized Texas online sports betting happens, crypto will have already established an early foothold through this partnership.

Having gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke make a pitch for Texas to get legal sports betting could have an impact. How much remains to be seen.

Owners like Jones and Mark Cuban (Dallas Mavericks) also need to continue to put pressure on the state Legislature to keep up with the evolving world of online sports gaming and entertainment, to integrate the mechanics of the industry into their teams and venues.

To those hoping to see gambling legalized in Texas, these partnerships keep the issue current and visible. Something that will appeal to those 50-50 voters should sports gaming make it onto the ballot.

Photo by Ron Jenkins / Associated Press
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Tyler is the Managing Editor of play-texas.com, covering sports, sports law, and gambling for the Lone Star State. He also contributes on similar topics for PlayCA, PlayFlorida, PlayOhio, and PlayMA. Tyler’s current focus is Texas’s pathway to gaming legalization.

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Written By Rylee Bailey on April 26, 2022
Who to vote for in TX for more gambling

Wild West gunslingers, politicians and soldiers in the 19th century once gathered around saloon tables in Texas cow towns for a night of booze and gambling.

However, despite Texas’ “come and take it” mentality, the popular pastime was soon outlawed due to passage of the 18th Amendment at the turn of the century making alcohol and gambling illegal throughout the US.

Texas still outlaws most forms of gambling, but some Texan legislators are looking to change that. These are the candidates to vote for in the 2022 general election if legalized online gambling in Texas is on the top of your voting priorities list.

Carol Alvarado (D-Houston)

Sen. Carol Alvarado has served as one of the key advocates for legalized gambling in Texas for more than a decade. Alvarado introduced her first piece of gambling legislation in 2009, looking to put the issue on the ballot for voters to consider.

Alvarado’s most recent legislation, SJR 49, filed in 2021, would allow voters to decide whether to amend the Texas Constitution to legalize gambling and permit the building of four casino resorts in Austin, the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and San Antonio. Both bills were left pending in committee.

Sen. Alvarado said in a statement:

“Now is the time to let voters decide on legalizing casino gaming across Texas. Texas loses billions of dollars a year to our neighboring states that allow gaming, and this measure would bring that revenue back to Texas, create tens of thousands of jobs and cut down on illegal gambling.”

John Kuempel (R-Seguin)

As vice-chair of the House Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee, Rep. John Kuempel is another Texas lawmaker leading the fight for legalized online gambling.

Kuempel filed HJR 133 in 2021 as a companion to Alvarado’s SJR 49. Like SJR 49, Kuempel’s bill was also left pending in committee.

In 2021, Rep. Kuempel vowed to try again when lawmakers meet again for the 2023 legislative session, saying: “Let’s roll the dice.”

Roland Gutierrez (D-San Antonio)

Sen. Roland Gutierrez also joined in on Kuempel and Alvarado’s 2021 push for legalized gambling in Texas.

Filed by Gutierrez in 2021, SJR 36 would amend the Texas Constitution and pave the way for commercial casinos in Texas. The joint resolution would allow the Texas Legislature to pass laws permitting the licensure of up to 12 casinos, and SB 616, another piece of legislation written by Gutierrez, does just that.

Rep. Gutierrez’s joint resolution and bill both died before reaching a vote, he said:

“We need to come up with taxing revenue that doesn’t come from raising folks’ property taxes. We’re losing, anecdotally, $3 billion to every state around us, those four states around us that have gaming”.

Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (D-McAllen)

Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa proposed SJR 39 and SB 736 in 2021 that would give Texans a voice in the legalization of sports betting.

This bill offered legalized in-person and online sports betting in Texas. Texas’ Sports Betting Alliance, comprised of several Texas professional sports teams, has backed Hinojosa’s legislation.

“Texans have a strong sense of independence, value their individual liberty, and want the freedom to make their own choices,” said Cara Gustafson, spokesperson for the Sports Betting Alliance. “The decision about whether to legalize sports betting or participate in sports betting should be left up to each Texan without government interference.”

Photo by Shutterstock
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Rylee Bailey

Rylee Bailey is an award-winning freelance journalist from Texas. She is wrapping up her senior year at Southern Methodist University and has been writing since she was in high school. Previously, Rylee covered North Texas High School football for the Dallas Morning News and has bylines in Casino Player and the Kaufman Herald.

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