Getting NFL Commish Goodell Under Oath On Gambling Would Be Great For Legal US Sports Betting

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Could we finally get straight answers from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on wagering on sports?

USA Today published a pair of stories about the NFL’s “inconsistency” on gambling and sports betting, something this space has covered at length.

The most interesting news out of those reports (here and here) is that Goodell has a chance to be questioned — under oath — about his league’s stance on gambling.

Goodell and the charity event at a casino

The NFL is involved in an ongoing lawsuit, in which it forced a charity event featuring NFL players to move away from a bowling alley located inside a casino’s property. Such an event, the NFL argued, is in violation of league rules.

That case has been going on for more than a year. In it, a non-profit corporation seeks up to $100,000 in damages, accusing the league of sending it “hush money” and committing fraud after it rescheduled said charity event.

The plaintiffs are also seeking to get Goodell on the record. More from USA Today:

After filing suit against the league last year, on Thursday the charity asked a federal judge to force NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to testify about how he interprets his gambling policy.

“Mr. Goodell alone is charged with interpretation and enforcement of the gambling policy that served as the basis for relocating the charity event,” said the request filed Thursday in federal court in Dallas.

Why getting Goodell to talk is a good thing

We always hear what Goodell says for the league publicly on gambling. He has said, many times, that the NFL opposes the expansion of legal sports betting in the US. That’s despite the fact that the NFL is moving a franchise to the only place in the US with sports betting, Nevada.

He would likely have to be more forthcoming if he has to go on the record in this case about what the league really thinks about gambling and sports betting. And he would have to answer to a bunch of new developments regarding the NFL and sports betting:

If nothing else, getting him on the record in the court case would force the NFL to defend its increasingly specious logic on its opposition to gambling despite actions to the contrary.

Getting the NFL on board is crucial to the future of US sports betting

The quickest path to legal sports betting in the US would be a victory for New Jersey in its ongoing court case. We should know later this month whether the US Supreme Court will hear an appeal on the NJ sports betting law. That’s something that looks unlikely right now, but isn’t impossible.

Short of that, proponents of sports betting need the NFL on its side, or at worst to stay on the sidelines at a passive observer. It’s difficult to see a path to legal sports betting via Congress without the tacit approval of the major US pro sports leagues.

And while that may come somewhat easily from the NBA and Major League Baseball, the NFL is a different story.

Getting the NFL to change its public stance on sports betting organically might take a long time, or it may not happen at all. But painting Goodell in a corner — having to defend all of the league’s silly and divergent policies towards gambling, sports betting and daily fantasy sports — could force the league’s hand.

If Goodell’s answers in testimony were to come up short, it will be increasingly difficult for the NFL to continue to paint sports betting as harmful to its integrity and bottom line.

So, let’s all hope Goodell has to answer serious questions about sports betting sooner rather than later.