The NBA and MLB have been the only major sports leagues to make their revised stance on sports betting known. While they petition states to pay them integrity fees, the NFL, NHL and NCAA remain quiet. Now, it appears the NFL is taking steps towards confirming their position on the matter. It is reported that sports gambling will be on the list of topics in a meeting with owners taking place this week.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has made contradictory statements in the past regarding the league’s perception of legal sports betting. At times, he has stated that sports gambling could jeopardize the integrity of the league and it should therefore not be allowed. On the other hand, he has also stated that sports betting could be a possibility given the proper regulatory procedures.
The league was put into hot water when they announced an approval to move the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas—the sports betting capital of the US. The NFL has no power over Vegas sportsbooks offering betting lines on their new franchise and it may soon have no power over betting in many other states. The ongoing New Jersey sports betting Supreme Court case is expected to end soon. Whether soon means in a matter of days, weeks or months remains to be seen, but many legal analysts expect them to return a verdict in favor of New Jersey. In that scenario, PASPA, the federal ban on sports betting, would likely be repealed.
The NBA and MLB are on a mission to impose their will on states pushing for legalization. The NFL probably won’t join that campaign, but they could agree on some key points pushed out by the other leagues. The big one is considering NFL games as the league’s intellectual property. Leagues want royalty fees for the games. They also want any sort of analytics or stats included in their intellectual property holdings. If this ends up being the case, the leagues will have a lot more leeway with negotiating betting terms in individual states.
SCOTUS can deliver a ruling on April 2. If they do not decide the PASPA case by then, we may not hear anything until June. The NFL, like its league counterparts, has missed the boat on states like Pennsylvania and West Virginia that have already passed legislation, but there are still plenty of wide open states available. Another option the NFL could take is to lobby Congress directly, which seems more appealing than lobbying in individual states.
In any case, the NFL is signaling that they may be making their stance known soon. Legal online betting in the US could be on the brink of including sports gambling, and the NFL would be wise to get on the bandwagon before it’s too late. They will want a piece of the revenue coming in, but the real question is how big of a piece are they entitled to.