Last May, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the 1992 legislation that prohibited sports gambling in the majority of states (Nevada enjoyed an exception). When that happened, the floodgates for legalized sports betting across the nation opened –Delaware, New Jersey, Mississippi, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island became the first to allow gambling on the result of a game, but they’re not going to be the final. 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 previous six months immersed in the world of sports betting for his follow-up to that project. Reteaming with Dealt manager Luke Korem and fellow producer Russell Wayne Groves (as well as showrunner David Assess ), Jackson produced the four-part Showtime documentary series Action, which monitored the winners and winners of the 2018-19 NFL season–not the ones on the field, but the ones at the match, wagering a small fortune on the outcome of the matches being played. Texas Monthly caught up with Jackson ahead of the series’ final episode to talk about sports gambling, daily dream, and what the chances are that Texas allows fans to place a bet on game day within the upcoming few years. Texas Monthly: What did you learn from this project? Bradley Jackson: Just how large a business this is. I meanyou see the numbers and they are simply astronomical. In the opening paragraph of this show, when we are showing these individuals betting on the Super Bowl, which only on the Super Bowl alone, I think it’s like six billion bucks. But the caveat to this stat is that just 3 percent of that is legal wagering. Meaning 97 percent of all action wagered on the Super Bowl is prohibited. 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. And then you look at the real numbers of just how much is really bet in America, and it has billions and billions of dollars–so much of that is illegal wagering. So it feels like it is one of these things everyone is doing, but nobody really talks about. Texas Monthly: Did working on this job 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 have made a couple–low-stakes things, just to get that feeling of what it is like. And it is fun, especially when you’re wagering a reasonable amount–but the emotions are still there. I’m a very mental person, so when I dropped my fifty-dollar UT vs. OU wager, I felt awful for about an hour. Because naturally I wager on UT, so when OU won, it hurt not only because my team dropped –it hurt more that I dropped fifty bucks. Texas Monthly: Do you have a sense of when putting a wager like that in Texas might be lawful? Bradley Jackson: We are living in a state that’s obsessed with sportsfootball especially. And nothing brings people’s attention over gambling on soccer, particularly the NFL. I think eventually Texas will do some sort of sports betting. I really don’t know how long it’s going to take. I think that they’ll do it in cellular, because I do not think we will see casinos in Texas, actually. I’ve been hearing that perhaps Buffalo Wild Wings will do some type of pseudo sports betting stuff, which means you could go to Buffalo Wild Wings and put in your phone and set a fifty-dollar bet on the Astros, and I think that would be lawful one day. Probably sometime in the next five years. Texas Monthly: With this industry being enormous, illegal, and thus largely untaxed, to what extent do you believe gaming as a source of untapped revenue for the country plays into things? Bradley Jackson: That will play hugely into it. From a monetary perspective, it is huge. Adam Silver, the commissioner of the NBA, was sort of on the forefront of that. He wrote an editorial for the New York Times about four years ago where he said we will need to take sports betting from the shadows and then bring it into the light. That way you can tax it, which is obviously good for the states, but then you may also make sure it’s done above board. When the Texas legislature sniff how much money may be taxed, it’s a no-brainer. Texas Monthly: The illegal bookie that you speak to in the documentary states that legalization does not impact his organization. What was that like for you to learn? Bradley Jackson: It blew me off. When we were sketching out the characters we wanted to try and determine to put in the series, an illegal bookie was definitely on top of our list. Our premise was that this is going to hurt them. We believed we were going to obtain some New Jersey illegal bookie whose bottom line was going to be really hurt by all of this. After we met this man, it was the specific opposite. He was like,”I am not sweating in any way.” I was stunned by it. He did say he believes that if each state eventually goes, if that becomes 100% legal in every nation, he then think that he might be affected. However he works out of this Tri-State area, and right now it’s only legal in New Jersey, and only in four or five places. He breaks it down really well at the end of the very first episode, where he just says,”It is convenient and it is charge –both C will never go off.” Having a illegal bookie, you can lose fifty million dollars on credit, and that may really negatively impact your life. Whereas you can still harm yourself gambling legally, but you can not bet on credit via lawful channels. If casinos begin letting you bet on credit, then I believe his bottom line could get hurt. The longer it is part of the national conversation, the more money he makes, because people are like,”Oh, it’s legal, right?” Texas Monthly: Is daily fantasy one of those gateways to sports betting? It feels like it is only a slight variant on traditional gambling. Bradley Jackson: In Episode 3, we follow one of the top five daily fantasy players in the us. He is a 26-year-old child. He makes millions of dollars doing this. He told me that the most he’s ever made was $1.5 million in 1 week. Among our hypotheses for the show was that the pervasiveness of daily dream was a gateway into the leagues letting legalized gaming to really happen. For years, you saw the NFL say that sports gambling is the worst thing ever and they would never allow it. And then about four years back daily dream like DraftKings and FanDuel began, and they bought, I think, 30,000 ad spots across the NFL Sunday platform. When you were watching the NFL, every other commercial was DraftKings or even FanDuel. And a great deal of folks were like,”Wait a minute, you guys say you believe sports gambling is the worst thing ever. How is this not gambling?” It is gambling. We really interview the CEO of DraftKings, and a couple of the high-up people at FanDuel, and I think that it’s B.S., but they say daily dream is not gambling, it is a game of skill. However, I really don’t think that’s true. Texas Monthly: The way people who make money do it will involve running huge quantities of teams to beat the odds, instead of picking the men they believe have the best matchups this week. Bradley Jackson: Right. We filmed our everyday fantasy player over 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 every week there are just two or three plays which are entirely arbitrary, and they make his week ruin his week, which is 100 percent chance. That is an element of gaming, as you’re putting something of financial worth up with an unknown outcome, and you have no control over how that’s awarded. We watch him literally lose sixty million dollars on a three-yard run by Ezekiel Elliott. It is the Cowboys-Eagles, and he states,”All I want is to get the Cowboys to do nicely, but minus Ezekiel Elliott producing any profits, and then you see Zeke get, for example, a four-yard pass and he is like,”If one more of those happens, then I’m screwed.” And then there is this tiny two-yard pass from Prescott to Elliott and he goes,”Well, I just dropped forty thousand dollars .” And you watch $60,000 jump from an account. There. Texas Monthly: Ken Paxton has argued that daily dream is prohibited in Texas. Are there cultural factors in the state that might make this more difficult to maneuver, or is something similar to that just a way of staking a claim to the cash involved? Bradley Jackson: It could just be the pessimist in me, but believe in the end of the day, a lot of it just comes down to cash. A fascinating case study is exactly what happened in Nevada. In Nevada they made daily fantasy illegal, which can be crazy, because gaming is legal in Nevada. Nevertheless, they made it illegal since the daily fantasy leagues wouldn’t pay the gaming tax. So it was just like a reverse place, where Nevada said,”Hey, this is betting, so cover the gaming taxes,” and DraftKings and FanDuel were like,”It is not gambling.” And so they didn’t come to Nevada. I don’t think Texas will inevitably do it right off the bat, but I presume it in a few years, when they see just how much cash there is to be made, and there are smart ways to go about it, it’ll happen. Read more: