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But the league continues to engage in a lot of mental gymnastics to determine what is and isn’t okay in relation to gambling as it gets ready to move the Oakland Raiders franchise to Las Vegas.
We saw yet more examples of that in a USA Today report looking into the gambling ties to the Raiders’ new stadium in Nevada.
The article from Brent Schrotenboer makes no bones about the planned new home for the Raiders. He calls it “The House That Gambling Built.”
The article almost devolves into comedy as an NFL spokesperson tries to jump through hoops explaining how the Las Vegas Stadium Authority’s involvement doesn’t violate league rules on gambling. Caesars and MGM are both a part of that board.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy noted that the casino executives represent only two of nine board spots and that the authority will not have rights to football-related assets or control of the stadium on a day-to-day basis. He said the NFL does not consider a Stadium Authority an “owner” in the context of its gambling policy.
“We would look very carefully at the rights associated with the lease,” McCarthy told USA TODAY Sports. “So long as the essential controls and the economics are controlled by the team, we would not expect to view it as a problem with respect to our policies.”
Both of those casinos, of course, are involved in Nevada sports betting.
The continued parsing of NFL policy when it comes to gambling interests comes after the revelation that New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft sits on a board of a company with investments in companies with sports betting, including Caesars.
And of course we have myriad examples of the league cracking down on players when there’s even the whiff of involvement of gambling. We’ll likely have to wait to see if the NFL ask for Raiders games to be taken off the board, even though Commissioner Roger Goodell says the environment in Nevada could be “beneficial.” That’s despite the fact that the NFL continues to oppose the expansion legal sports betting.
It seems like just a matter of time until the NFL has to change its policies or move the goalposts even further to rationalize its relationship with casinos and Las Vegas.
Currently, casinos can advertise at NFL stadiums — see the Detroit Lions and the MGM Grand Detroit, or the Miami Dolphins’ Hard Rock Stadium for examples. But that’s only if they don’t have sports betting at the casino. That’s an easy hoop to jump through, as single-game sports betting is illegal outside of Nevada.
The NHL already changed its policy to allow the Las Vegas Golden Knights to have such deals. Unless the NFL wants to eschew taking money from every major casino in the state — pretty much all of them have a sportsbook or ties to one — something has to give.
The more we learn about the NFL and its gambling ties, the more weight we can add to the scale that regulated sports betting isn’t harming the league in any material way.
That argument that it does is wearing more thin with each passing day. The league would have a difficult time proving harm in court, should it argue that today. (While it’s too late for this in the New Jersey sports betting case, it’s possible if another state tries to legalize it.)
The league continues to draw new lines in the sand on gambling. When will the league just stop with its laughable stances and turn the corner on legal sports betting? We can all hope that day is coming soon.