The NFL recently made history by approving the Oakland Raiders to move to Las Vegas, Nevada, otherwise known as the sports betting capital of America. The NHL also launched a franchise in Sin City, leading many to believe the tide was shifting regarding the major sports leagues and sports betting. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell recently spoke on ESPN’s Mike & Mike radio show during the NFL Draft weekend in Philadelphia about the league’s stance on legalizing sports betting.
ESPN’s Mike Greenberg brought up sports betting legalization during the interview and cited both the Raiders’ move to Las Vegas and other major league commissioners’ softened stance on the issue. Goodell has long been against the idea of legalizing sports betting and he remained steadfast in his convictions during the interview. While he did acknowledge there has been a shift in society regarding gambling, he firmly believes sports betting will harm the integrity of the game. He was adamant that the league will oppose legal US online sports gambling, though at one point in the interview undercut his words by saying how the league will “have to adapt policies from time to time.” This is a very tame statement, but one that points towards them being open to change (albeit a potentially forced change, should the hype around sports betting keep growing).
As of now, sports betting is a billion-dollar industry worldwide. In the US, only four states are exempted from the federal ban on sports betting known as the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA)—Oregon, Delaware, Montana and Nevada. Out of these four states, only Nevada has unrestricted sports betting. The state reaps the benefits of being the only legal regulated sports betting outlet with high yield of revenue year after year. Offshore sportsbooks present another viable option for US bettors and are legal for US players because there are no US sports gambling laws that ban betting with an offshore site.
The amount of money wagered through sports betting isn’t an unknown statistic. In fact, other major league commissioners have come out in support of sports betting legalization because of the potential upside. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has been the most outspoken, publishing an op-ed in the New York Times about how sports betting should be legalized and regulated. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has spoken several times on how his league will examine sports betting and how the respective owners will mitigate the logistics of any proposed legal sports betting market. Daily Fantasy Sports—an alternative sports betting option—has grown increasingly popular over the years and big name providers DraftKings and FanDuel have sponsorships with professional franchises. The fact that both the NHL and the NFL have teams in Las Vegas creates a bit of hypocrisy when discussing the integrity of the game and how sports betting could affect it. Goodell stated in a previous interview that the regulated Nevada sports betting market could be beneficial, so there are some inconsistencies present.
Despite Goodell’s most recent comments on ESPN’s Mike & Mike, sports betting legalization seems to be getting closer. It’s highly unlikely that Goodell will ever support sports betting outright, but the presence of an NFL franchise in the heart of American sports betting could be a crucial piece of the puzzle. Vegas sportsbooks held betting lines on the NFL Draft over the weekend, a first for the Nevada Gaming Commission, so it is clear that anything can happen regarding sports betting and the NFL. Suffice it to say, the demand for sports betting is undeniably present.