While it remains to be seen how Monday’s historic Supreme Court decision allowing states to conduct legalized sports gambling will affect the NFL, the nation’s No. 1 sports league is turning to Congress to help put a “regulatory framework” in place.
“The NFL’s long-standing and unwavering commitment to protecting the integrity of our game remains absolute,” the league said Monday in the wake of the decision to give states the choice of whether to allow betting on sports. “Congress has long recognized the potential harms posed by sports betting to the integrity of sporting contests and the public confidence in these events.
“Given that history, we intend to call on Congress again, this time to enact a core regulatory framework for legalized sports betting. We also will work closely with our clubs to ensure that any state efforts that move forward in the meantime protect our fans and the integrity of our game.”
In March, at its annual meeting, the league presented to team owners the findings of a secret, years-long study into sports gambling and the patterns associated with it.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said at the time the presentation was to “make sure people understood the, I would call it, prospects and potential for how gambling can change, in part because of the Supreme Court decision, how it’s supervised on its own beyond that. And this isn’t new work. We’ve been focusing on this for several years, of how does it affect the way we operate.”
Unlike the NBA and MLB, which are more aggressively pursuing their cut from the gaming industry in the form of a so-called integrity fee — ostensibly to help keep their sports pure — the early indications are the NFL will take a wait-and-see approach.
If the NFL were to take a big chomp out of the casino profits, for instance, that could create complications for a league that in the next two years will move the Raiders to Las Vegas. Presumably, the Raiders will be looking for support from those same casinos.
There are many people in and around the NFL who either support the idea of sports gambling, or see it an inevitability.
CBS analyst Amy Trask, former chief executive of the Raiders, called the Supreme Court decision “long overdue from a societal and business standpoint.”
“Thoughts as to gambling have evolved, gambling practices have evolved, etc.,” Trask wrote in an email to The Times. “The league now plays games in London where there is far greater legalized gambling than there is in this country, and, of course, the league has approved the move of a team to Las Vegas. Some owners still view gambling as taboo and are troubled by much of this, many other owners do not consider it taboo and some owners are keen on developing gambling related revenue streams.”
Legendary producer David Hill, who launched Fox Sports and is recognized as one of the preeminent innovators in sports television, said Monday’s decision is a welcome step forward and will enhance the popularity of professional sports “because more viewers will have skin in the game.”
The NFL has benefited greatly in recent years from the rise in popularity of fantasy football, which has heightened interest in the sport.
“I know there’s a downside to gambling,” Hill said. “But as long as you know that every bet you can lose, it adds to the enjoyment of what sports is. I really don’t know anyone who calls themselves a sports lover who doesn’t have a bet, who doesn’t have an opinion.”
But he was quick to clarify: “I’m not the kind of person that worries about the morality of betting. I’m an Australian, and Australians will bet on two raindrops coming down.”
Follow Sam Farmer on Twitter @LATimesfarmer