NFL’s Goodell Offers League’s Updated Stance on Sports Betting

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NFL commissioner Roger Goodell issues a statement regarding future US sports betting, in which he lays out the core principles the league wants to see inserted into any United States federal legislation.

National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell has updated his league’s position on sports-betting matters after the defeat of the NFL and four other prominent American sports associations in the recent US Supreme Court ruling that overturned PASPA (the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act). PASPA is the federal law that prevented most of the United States from offering legalized sports betting for over a quarter of a century.

As with the other major sports associations involved in the recent “Christie II” Supreme Court case, the NFL appears resigned to the reality that regulated sports wagering is coming to a plurality of US states within the next few years. However, Goodell and the NFL have offered their own take on how this US-wide sports wagering marketing should be shaped.

Four core principles

According to a statement released by Goodell, the NFL believes that four core principles should be implemented. “Our fans, our players, and our coaches deserve to know that we are doing everything possible to ensure no improper influences affect how the game is played on the field, Goodell said. He added: “This week’s ruling by the Supreme Court has no effect on that unwavering commitment.”

Mr. Goodell said that the NFL is asking Congress to enact uniform standards for states choosing to legalize sports betting that include these principles:

1. There must be substantial consumer protections;

2. Sports leagues can protect our content and intellectual property from those who attempt to steal or misuse it;

3. Fans will have access to official, reliable league data; and

4. Law enforcement will have the resources, monitoring and enforcement tools necessary to protect our fans and penalize bad actors here and abroad.

Mr. Goodell acknowledged that the leagues’ defeat in the Supreme Court appeal wasn’t unforeseen. “We have spent considerable time planning for the potential of broadly legalized sports gambling,” he said, “and are prepared to address these changes in a thoughtful and comprehensive way, including substantial education and compliance trainings for our clubs, players, employees, and partners. These efforts include supporting common-sense legislation that protects our players, coaches, and fans and maintains public confidence in our games”.

‘Integrity’ fee not included

Notable in the third of the four core principles offered is the hinting at a data-rights fee as a means of extracting some form of payment from any new sports-betting market. This differs from the approach put forth in several state-level legislative debates in recent months, which have seen lobbyists from some of the other major American seek a slice of the action in that way.

Goodell also noted that he has had talks with members of Congress, in particular with US Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the last of the four original sponsors of the original PASPA legislation back in 1991. Hatch, the president pro tempore of the US Senate, is a powerful member of the body and has already announced his plans to introduce federal sports betting legislation in the near future. Such legislation has the potential to supersede many of the state-level legislative debates on the topic.

Any fee a tough sell

Whether couched as an integrity fee, a data-rights fee, a flat royalty, or something else, the NFL and the other prominent American sports organizations will face a tough battle, particularly at the state level. This contributes to why the leagues will likely try for a blanket victory, meaning a fee legislated at the federal level.

Despite that, pushback from individual states continues, especially from New Jersey, which spent tens of millions of dollars and nearly a decade of effort to force the PASPA prohibition from the US scene. As NJ Senate President Steve Sweeney told ESPN’s David Purdum: “Ironically, [the leagues] are calling this extortion attempt an ‘integrity fee,’ even while fully aware that providing participants a stake in the volume of betting would amount to what would more accurately be called an ‘anti-integrity fee.’ Taking the leagues at their word, giving them a ‘piece of the action,’ would make suspicions grow whenever turning-point calls in close games go in favor of the more popular team — whose presence in the ‘big game’ would drive ratings and betting”.

In a separately released YouTube video put out by Sen. Sweeney’s office, he called the leagues “shakedown artists” and noted that many pro-franchise owners also own stakes in major casino corporations. Sen. Sweeney then compared these owners’ statements that they wouldn’t allow wagering on their own teams games to be akin — in a hypocritical sense — to Major League Baseball’s lifetime ban on all-time hits leader Pete Rose over Rose’s clandestine gambling activity.