If the NFL is coming any closer to changing it stance on the legalization of sports betting, it’s not coming from the mouth of Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Goodell talks sports betting on Mike & Mike
Goodell was in Philadelphia for the NFL Draft and doing the media arounds. (Interestingly, you can now bet on the draft legally in Nevada.) On Friday morning, he appeared on the Mike & Mike show on ESPN Radio.
The hosts have gotten in the habit of asking commissioners about sports betting whenever they appear on the show. While that topic has gotten a warmer reception from MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, but less so from Goodell.
Mike Greenberg: One other thing that I think is interesting to a lot of fans is that with the pending move of the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas, the issue of legalizing sports gambling, or whatever the league’s relationship is to it. And I’m hearing increasingly from some other commissioners, whom I know you talk to regularly, that they have a softened stance, if you will, on the issue of legalizing gambling. Where is your head on that right now, where is the league stance on it right now?
Goodell: Well, listen, the Raiders are going to be playing in Las Vegas, there clearly is a change I think in society with respect to gambling in general. Where we draw the line is when anything can impact the integrity of the game. And legalized sports betting is something that we’re concerned about on that level. So we’ll remain opposed to that. But we’re obviously recognizing what’s going on in society and we’re going to have to adapt policies from time to time. But we think this is something — protecting that integrity of the game is critical.
Listen to the full interview here.
Is Goodell really ‘recognizing what’s going on in society’?
That’s certainly up for debate. Goodell says the NFL’s opposition to sports betting is because of its impact on “game integrity.” However, the idea that the NFL is acknowledging “what’s going on” flies in the face of reality:
- Sports betting takes place widely in the US on the black market despite a federal ban — it is only legal in Nevada — to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars, much of it wagered on the NFL.
- Sports betting is widely regulated in many parts of the world, and leagues and bookmakers agree regulation improves integrity.
- Most NFL players are compensated to a point at which throwing games for money is wholly unrealistic.
- The NFL’s words and actions — including the Vegas move — make it increasingly difficult for the NFL to argue sports betting “harms” the league in any way.
- At least one NFL owner — New England’s Robert Kraft — has an investment in legal sports betting.
Of course, this isn’t the only topic the NFL and Goodell are out of touch with. Goodell was also taking heat for comments about marijuana use from the same Mike & Mike interview:
— Kevin Van Valkenburg (@KVanValkenburg) April 28, 2017
Is there room for the NFL to move on sports betting?
The hope for proponents of legal sports betting is that the NFL is saying one thing publicly but moving away from that stance privately. At least a few NFL owners have said as much anonymously via the media. The league has had no qualms about its teams having relationships with daily fantasy sports.
Will the NFL and Goodell one day move closer to the public positions of the NBA and MLB, which acknowledge that sports betting is going on despite the federal ban and that legalization and regulation helps game integrity? Someday, perhaps. But not today.