The NFL recently announced it is going to increase punishments for some of the league’s betting rules after being hit with a rash of bad headlines about gambling.
But NFL rule violations come in degrees, ranging from betting on NFL games to betting on NFL property. While these are both significant problems for the NFL, they are different; one can probably be remedied fairly easily, and the other is going to take some work.
Again, though, it is hard to get over what a massive failure by the NFL this is. While they are the most recent example, they are certainly not the only league with players violating league rules surrounding sports betting. There is also the possibility that there are many athletes out there breaking rules that we will never know about, but that is a problem for another day.
What NFL betting scandals taught us
The first was that the NFL has a massive need for upping its education around sports betting and probably gambling more broadly. The second was that the regulated system worked
From the reported information in the Ridley case, there was fast identification of what was happening by the sportsbook, as opposed to the NFL or the league’s partners. The system is designed to catch and ideally stop people who should not be betting from being able to do so.
The nature of the act makes a “Minority Report”-style stopping of all prohibited betting before it happens beyond the reach of current technology, or at least current public policy. It is hard to see what these increased punishments add that was outside of the commissioner’s power beforehand.
Quick refresher about latest troubles
As LSR reported way back in April, two members of the Detroit Lions and one member of the Washington Commanders were suspended for the entirety of the NFL season for violating the league’s sports betting policy. While the suspensions are indefinite, the players can apply to be reinstated after one year.
In addition to those suspended indefinitely, Jameson Williams was suspended for the first six games of the upcoming season for violating less serious aspects of the NFL’s gambling policy, notably betting on NFL property. The league later reduced that suspension and another similar one to four games and revised its policy on wagering on non-NFL games.
Those receiving the indefinite suspensions are the latest and almost certainly not the last suspended for violating the league’s policy against betting on NFL games. The NFL did not indicate that the integrity of games was compromised.
Nonetheless, it is staggering that the short time in which the same conduct got Pete Rose suspended forever from baseball is now seemingly just another day in the US sports betting world.
An easy problem, a daunting one
The more recent suspensions, and embarrassments, for the NFL highlight two problems. The first is seemingly beyond incomprehensible that it could even happen because the fix appears so simple if players were in fact using wifi within an NFL facility. Even though Williams reportedly violated the policy while traveling out of state with the Lions, the greater issue remains the same.
The idea that NFL personnel, people employed by the most valuable sports league in the world, are able to access sites that I cannot access at my doctor’s office (I cannot even access my own writing on this site there because we mention the word “gambling”) is just shocking. In fact, it seems so shocking that I sincerely hope there was some attempted circumvention of blocked sites or some other explanation.
If not, NFL owners, please do yourselves a favor and block gambling sites on your facility’s wifi. For goodness sake, there are probably a million parents of teenagers blocking access to internet sites across this country at this very moment. The NFL should be able to figure this one out.
More NFL betting education is needed
The big takeaway here is that what is being done to educate NFL personnel (and likely that of other leagues as well) is not good enough. What is being provided is not working.
After Ridley got caught, there were lots of people highlighting that his betting would cost him $11 million in salary. For whatever reason, the loss of salary has not been a deterrent. Simply repeating to NFL players that placing a bet will cost you millions does not appear to be working, so maybe there is a need to take a renewed approach.
I do not have intimate knowledge of the NFL’s gambling education program, but it is clearly not working. The tactics that worked when sports betting was the illegal big boogeyman connected to organized crime where everyone ends up with broken kneecaps are not the reality anymore (and they were not then either, with perhaps a few exceptions, but that is a bit beyond the point here.)
What the shield needs to do
Leagues need to do better and modernize their education around programs that work. The reality is that if a team is paying a player $11 million a year, that team and the league are making way more than that from having them on the field.
The sports leagues also need to take a look at themselves and the messages they are putting out there. These guys play in stadiums littered with gambling advertisements. If sports leagues think that this type of scandal hurts their brands, maybe a little separation would be a good thing.
The leagues would be well-served to start working on new solutions instead of putting out ideas from the same echo chambers that keep producing these results.