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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, speaking on a variety of topics at the NFL owners meeting in Houston, fielded a question about sports betting. It came in the context of the state of Nevada approving a $750 million stadium plan that could end up bringing the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas.
Goodell on gambling: "We remain very much opposed to gambling on sports. …. we want to make sure we're doing what's right for the game."
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 19, 2016
Las Vegas, of course, is the gambling capital of the United States, and Nevada is the only place in the country where single-sport wagering is allowed. The optics of possibly putting a franchise in Las Vegas are obviously in question, given that public stance from Goodell and the league.
This is nothing new from Goodell and the league, despite the narrative that the NFL has “evolved” its position on gambling. Just a year ago, Goodell said he opposed legalization of sports betting.
Even if the NFL were to allow the Raiders to move to Las Vegas — which still requires a vote by the owners and appears to be a pretty big “if” — it doesn’t necessarily mean much for the NFL’s stance on gambling.
The league already puts on several games a year in London, where sports betting is legal and widely available, and that hasn’t changed its stance. Should the Las Vegas Raiders become a reality, the league might asking regulators for Nevada sports betting to tell the bookmakers that they can’t take wagers on Raiders games.
Goodell’s comments also belie the fact that tens of billions of dollars are being wagered on the NFL already on, the vast majority of it at illegal unlicensed offshore sportsbooks.
The NFL is heavily involved with daily fantasy sports operators DraftKings and FanDuel via a series of team partnerships. Goodell has been careful to draw a line between DFS and sports betting, as well as differentiating season-long fantasy.
The NFL continues to be a plaintiff in the New Jersey sports betting case, and it doesn’t appear that its going to be a vocal advocate of legal sports betting, like NBA Commisioner Adam Silver and former commissioner David Stern.
Proponents that want to see legal sports betting in the US are hoping that the NFL’s words are just that — words. Goodell can stand in front of reporters and say one thing publicly, while the league does nothing privately (or actively) to stop a Congressional repeal of the federal sport betting prohibition — PASPA — the logic goes. To wit:
I don't ever see the NFL openly supporting the legalization of sports betting, but the league's days fighting to stop it are dwindling, imo.
— David Payne Purdum (@DavidPurdum) October 19, 2016
It seems clear at this point that at least some of the NFL’s owners aren’t that worried about legalization of sports betting, and probably realize it helps drive eyeballs to its games and revenue.
As long as all we have are occasional public comments from Goodell decrying sports betting as bad for the integrity of its games, we’ll be left to guess what the NFL will actually do when push comes to shove.