National Football League representatives held a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, in part attempting to explain how the NFL stance on legal sports betting has shifted so dramatically.
For years, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell argued that sports betting expansion was a threat to the integrity of the game.
“I think there’s an impression that somehow the NFL benefits from every individual wager that’s made on a game, and that’s clearly not so,” Jeff Miller, NFL executive vice president of communications, public affairs and policy, health and safety initiatives, said. “We have partnerships. … But we’re as far from benefiting from any individual bet as you can be.”
NFL sports betting partnerships
LSR asked Miller about the importance of partnership revenue in Goodell’s change of tune.
“We’re not throwing any dollar figures around here at all. The relationship that the league has with sports gambling changed for one specific reason, and that is because the world changed,” Miller said, adding he did not know if the NFL had a “top-line number” for gambling-related revenue.
“The Supreme Court overturned PASPA in 2018, five years and some odd months ago. As a result, we had to re-think how we had to engage with legalized sports gambling. And that’s what we’ve done. … We’ll continue to look at and examine how we do that in the hopes that we can do the best we can to protect integrity of the game …”
Goodell’s change of tune explained
Back in 2012, Goodell sounded much more anti-gambling.:
“If gambling is permitted freely on sporting events, normal incidents of the game such as bad snaps, dropped passes, turnovers, penalties, and play calling inevitably will fuel speculation, distrust and accusations of point-shaving or game-fixing,” he said.
NFL wants consumer protections, illegal offshore market curtailed
Twelve years later, there has been increased worry that the games could be “fixed.” Meanwhile, the NFL has pushed for increased consumer protections, and the elimination of the illegal offshore gambling market.
“We educate thoroughly, 17,000-plus people, everybody associated with the game. And I think you know that well, and many people do now, and we need keep repeating it. And we need to get better at it if we’re not good enough now,” Miller said.
“… There’s a transparency element to what we’re doing, so that I hope that it generates trust among our fans. Or casual observers who raise this same question that you just raised. To make sure that when they look at the game a week from Sunday, that there isn’t a doubt in their mind that the integrity of the game is the foremost concern in the NFL’s approach, in a world where sports gambling is legal. And there shouldn’t be.”
NFL players face sports betting bans
Ten NFL players faced various suspensions in 2023 for violating the league’s gambling policy dating back to 2022. It has led to an increase in player education and awareness programs. League disciplinary policies have also been amended.
“I don’t have a crystal ball to guess what (this) summer is going to be (in terms of how many suspensions),” Miller said. “The hope is, over some period of time, there is really a substantial deterrent effect. And that the discipline that we talked about in September is tailored to fit the sorts of rule violations that exist.
“Those that are most concerning to the integrity of the game are going to get the most discipline, as you saw a year or two, depending on the violation. And those that are less connected to the integrity of the game get a little more of a modest punishment than we had originally envisioned. Those are all developments that we’re proud of, and continue to think about.”
NFL expects continued scrutiny
The NFL will continue be under the microscope given its financial relationships with sportsbooks.
All eyes will be on Super Bowl LVIII on Feb. 11, in the gambling capital of the US.
“When we think about sports betting at the NFL every day, if you could distill it down to two things, it’s through a prism of protecting game integrity, and then delivering experiences for fans that are interested in and like sports betting,” NFL vice president and general manager of sports betting David Highhill said.