NFL Seeks Uniform Gambling Regulations from US Congress

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NFL Seeks Uniform Gambling Regulations from US Congress

The world’s top-grossing sports league is taking an unprecedented step toward embracing newly-opened gambling opportunities.

In the wake of the landmark Supreme Court decision that ended the federal ban on sports betting, the National Football League has asked the U.S. Congress for a standardization across all states that chose to legalizing wagering. The NFL had previously distanced itself from all affiliation with gambling and was even a co-defendant in the case, Christie vs. NCAA, which challenged the 25-year ban.

The league discussed the possible impacts of an overturned ban at its meetings earlier this year, a significant first step for an organization that had long distanced itself from any gambling-related conversations. With states now permitted to make their own laws, the NFL has shifted its position again as it seeks the most advantageous, and lucrative, opportunities now available with gambling revenues expected to garner billions.

NFL Announces it Formal Requests

That desire has come in the form of a “core regulatory framework” that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell laid out in a statement released May 21. Goodell lays out four tenants of this standardization.

  1. There must be substantial consumer protections
  2. Sports leagues can protect content and intellectual property
  3. Fans have access to official, reliable data league data
  4. Law enforcement have resources, monitoring and enforcement tools needed to protect fans and penalize “bad actors”

In the statement, Goodell said the league has done “everything possible” to eliminate improper influences. Now the league wants U.S. lawmakers to do the same:

"These efforts include supporting commonsense legislation that protects our players, coaches and fans and maintains public confidence in our games."

League Could Pursue Integrity Fees

While it’s no surprise the NFL wants to protect its games from being rigged by gamblers, a nuanced look at Goodell’s statements may help reveal the leagues’ true intentions with the inevitable growth in legalized gambling. By asking Congress to ensure sports leagues can protect its content, the NFL may be positioning itself to ask for a federally mandated integrity fee.

According to American professional sports leagues, an “integrity fee” is necessary to prevent these would-be bad actors from influencing games. In reality, it serves as another revenue source.

Gambling has been legal in Las Vegas for decades and the Oakland Raiders are set to relocate there in the coming years. Meanwhile, an estimated $150 billion is wagered illegally outside Nevada on sporting events each year, including $4.6 billion on Super Bowl LII alone. Pro football has shown little need to counter possible threats from this multi-billion illegal gambling network.

States Hesitant to Give Up Revenue

In reality, an integrity fee is another revenue opportunity for sports leagues. Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association came out before the Supreme Court ruling in favor of legalized and regulated sports betting. Along with the PGA, these leagues predicted the court would strike down the federal ban and lobbied individual states to include an integrity fee of 1% on bets cast.

Nevada has never supported such fees, as its sportsbooks typically see around a 5% net revenue on sports wagers. A 1% fee on bets placed would mean a loss of 20% of the sportsbooks’ profit margins. State legislators in other jurisdictions considering legalized sports gambling have been hesitant to give up on their own profit potential. In response, the NBA and MLB have lowered their requests to a 0.25% fee.

As the most high-profile sports league in America, the NFL has an outsized impact on all developments in the nation’s sports, including the unprecedented growth potential ushered in by the recent Supreme Court ruling. While it has stayed in the background of developments up to this point, Goodell’s statement could indicate a more aggressive approach going forward.

With billions of dollars in gambling revenue at stake, the NFL will undoubtedly seek a piece of the action. The announcement about content protection and enforcement tools are quite possibly ways to make sure pro football isn’t left out.

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