Next week, players, coaches, fans and administrators of the National Football League will gather for an event that was not possible 10 years ago: the Super Bowl in Las Vegas, the gambling capital of the United States.
Ever since the Supreme Court ruled, in 2018, a federal law that banned sports betting outside of Nevada — a ban backed by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell — the NFL has embraced the gambling industry. It has made partnerships worth about $1 billion over five years with sports betting companies, allowing a sportsbook to operate within one of its platforms. It now also has a team in Las Vegas, which the league avoided for years because any deal was seen as a threat to the integrity of the sport.
However, the introduction of sports betting so quickly into the league’s culture has created a lot of controversy. The NFL is pushing for the popularity and profitability of sports betting while avoiding the pitfalls that have long dogged them. Despite the league’s funding to promote smart gambling, its broadcasts are dominated by gambling industry advertisements. The NFL is part of a growing apparatus that encourages casual fans to place regular wagers on sports, while punishing league officials — especially players — who do the same.
The NFL and other sports have “moved quickly into this area, thinking deeply about the benefits of participating in gambling, but not really thinking about anything that could go wrong,” said Marc Edelman, a law professor and sports director. Ethics at Baruch College in New York.
“While it would make sense to ban sports team employees from betting on sports,” Edelman added, “there is no question that there is a perception problem” when NFL players and employees are often exposed to things that promote gambling, including signs in stadiums. . and betting on NFL broadcasts, while doing their jobs. The league agreement also gives gambling companies the right to use the NFL logo in their advertising and be part of major NFL events.
The NFL says its stance on sports betting, which it shares with other major American sports, has changed with the rule change, and that working with gamblers will help better protect the integrity of sports. As with most positions the NFL takes on, however, the results are magnified by the nature of the league. More than just responding to the land, the NFL is helping to fix it.
Americans will legally bet more than $115 billion on sports in 2023, according to the American Gaming Association, a trade group for the gambling industry. About 25 million more Americans bet on sports last year than in 2018, the group said, and the number of states where sports betting is legal will reach 38 this year.
While the NFL’s numbers are difficult to calculate, because not every state reports the game or the league, the sports organization reported on market analysis from investment firm Citizens JMP Securities. The report estimated that about $1.5 billion will be legally bet on next Sunday’s Super Bowl, more than 1 percent of the amount legally bet on all sports last year.
There are few studies on whether the legalization of gambling has increased addictive behavior. But those who see how gambling affects people are worried. The National Council on Problem Gambling says its research shows that older Americans suffer from problem gambling in the three years after the sports betting ban was repealed.
Dr. Marc Potenza, a psychiatrist and director of Yale’s Center of Excellence in Gambling Research described the “perfect storm” that can lead to some people developing a gambling problem. He cited factors such as deregulation, the availability of mobile betting, more advertising and more free time spent on sports. Especially those at risk are young men who value sports, said Dr. Power.
In 2021, the year the NFL entered into an agreement with three sports partners, it gave the National Council on Problem Gambling a three-year, $6.2 million grant that was used to gradually improve the support line that appears under the betting industry. . The league’s contribution is a small fraction of what gambling companies pay to be part of the NFL’s commercial equipment, but it is the largest grant in the league’s history and exceeded all of the nonprofit’s revenue over the past four years, according to tax records.
“We’re here — we’re in this business,” said Anna Isaacson, the NFL’s vice president of social affairs. “What can we do to make sure we don’t cause unnecessary harm?”
The league’s policy on interstate gambling violations, however, remains punitive. For many years, sports practitioners believed that gambling could damage the integrity of results – with concerns that a player would throw a game because of a bet, for example – so the focus has been on enforcement and punishment rather than prevention and treatment.
The NFL prohibits players and teams from betting on any sports, while players are allowed to bet on sports other than the NFL, as long as they are not doing so on team or team or league business. While in Las Vegas for the Super Bowl, members of the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers and hundreds of league employees, many of whom live at Caesars Palace, are not allowed to play casino games and can enter the game book only after passing. to another part of the hotel.
The NFL said it trains 17,000 people a year, and last year, amid suspensions, league officials began visiting teams to conduct interviews with players. Players who have been suspended for a full season are being told that counseling is one of the things the league must consider when asking for reinstatement, and the league said it has shared information about safe gambling in its education system.
The NFL has not disclosed the number of players around the world who have been disciplined under its gambling rules. The league has gone years without a player gambling violation before the Supreme Court ruled, but 10 players were disciplined this season, including seven who were banned for long periods of betting on NFL games. In September, the league increased penalties for players who bet on their own teams and reduced them for those who began betting on other sports while on the job.
Two former NFL employees who have been fired in the past two years for violating the policy said in an interview that they were not given the opportunity to rehabilitate and return to their jobs, as is the case for club employees struggling with problems such as drug abuse. The former workers, who have not been named for fear of retribution, said they were fired without severance or benefits.
One said the man’s shot was betting less than $1,000 on the NFL and other sports four years earlier, through a company that is now a partner of the league. The New York Times confirmed the details by reviewing the employee’s account history with the company. The other employee said that the main concern in the league seems to be the possibility that any loan will be used as interest for the employee.
When asked to comment on the shooting, the NFL said in a statement, “We see this as a threat to the integrity of the game, and a violation of our gambling policy could result in the dismissal of our staff, who are highly trained and supportive of this process.”
David Highhill, who was appointed as the NFL’s general manager of sports betting in 2022, said the most important thing in writing and applying the rules of competitive sports is to maintain the integrity of the game.
NFL audiences, however, see regular ads from betting companies. In response to fan outrage when FanDuel and DraftKings’ so-called fantasy football ads — in which fans pick their own NFL teams — aired games in 2015, the league announced the number of sports ads for the six games it would begin hosting in 2021.
However, more Americans watched sports ads during NFL games than any other television program over the past three years, according to data from iSpot, a TV measurement company. Three betting ads will air during this year’s Super Bowl telecast, Highhill said.
Throughout the week leading up to next Sunday’s game, the business partnership between the NFL and betting operators will be on display in Las Vegas. It’s a growing industry in the league, but it worries long-time gambling keepers.
“He might say he thinks it can be improved,” said former Senator Bill Bradley, a retired basketball player who spearheaded legislation that overturned a 1992 law that effectively banned sports betting, referring to the NFL and other players. And I don’t think this is controlled. I think it has to do with culture. “