NFL Weighs In On Federal Sports Betting Ahead Of Thursday’s Hearing

Posted on September 26, 2018

With members of Congress preparing to meet to discuss sports betting, the NFL submitted written testimony to weigh in on the matter.

As legal sports betting industries continue to crop up, including a booming NJ sports betting market, the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigation will convene Thursday. The goal of the hearing is to hear testimony about potential federal oversight.

On Wednesday, the NFL provided its thoughts on the subject.

And they are … interesting.

Two thumbs up for federal oversight

In a seven-page written testimonyJocelyn Moore, NFL executive vice president of communications and public affairs, noted the league “for decades … has collaborated with federal policymakers to protect the integrity” of sports.

The federal ban on sports betting, PASPA, was an act the NFL worked “to enact and vigorously defended at every level of our judicial system,” Moore wrote. And PASPA stood as “a central pillar” of the federal government’s system of laws including the Wire Act and the Sports Bribery Act.

Moore cites the original House version of PASPA. That version stated that sports betting “threatens the integrity and character” of pro and amateur sports. It also “instills inappropriate values” in young athletes. Additionally, sports betting “misappropriates the goodwill and popularity” of leagues and organizations and “dilutes and tarnishes” said leagues.

Wrote Moore:

“Those findings are as valid today as they were in the 1990s and should guide federal policy as state governments line up to legalize and promote sports betting. There is no greater priority for Commissioner Goodell, NFL owners and NFL players than protecting the integrity of our sport. NFL fans, players and coaches deserve to know that we are doing everything possible to ensure no improper influences affect how the game is played on the field.”

Moore referenced the SCOTUS opinion that “Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, each State is free to act on its own.” With that opening, Moore wrote, a new set of regulatory standards, from the federal level, is needed to “protect consumers and the integrity of our games.”

NFL has a few sports betting requests

Within the NFL’s extensive testimony are a set of requests to Congress for an overarching regulatory framework on sports betting.

The givens are included, such as a requirement for bettors to be of legal age and for operators to be licensed and audited. A number of the league’s requests already reflect within New Jersey sports betting regulations as well as other states.

But the NFL, Moore wrote, “is calling upon Congress to establish core standards for state regulators.”

The three requests include:

  • Crafting a framework “with substantial safeguards for consumers”
  • Providing credible monitoring and enforcement tools “to protect NFL fans and penalize bad actors here at home and abroad”
  • Protecting league content and intellectual property.

Of ‘ghost games’ and league data

Along those lines, the league’s proposal would require sports betting operators to purchase official league data. In the same tone, leagues would have control of the types of wagers offered at sportsbooks.

As written, the NFL would like to “restrict, limit, or exclude wagers that are not determined solely by the final score or outcome of the event.” Basically, the NFL wants to rid the world of in-play betting that has become one of the more popular betting formats.

Yet such a request begs the question as to why the NFL would require operators to purchase official league data. If the only wagers allowed are on the final score, why would official league data be necessary?

According to Moore, usage of official league data would protect bettors from fake matches (those that occur but pit two completely different teams against one another) or “ghost games” (games that simply do not exist) that are “created by criminals or unscrupulous operators.”

To the federal sports betting hearing… and beyond

The House subcommittee meeting (titled “Post-PASPA: An Examination of Sports Betting in America”) comes on the heels of Sen. Orrin Hatch and Sen. Chuck Schumer coming out in recent weeks imploring for federal involvement with legalized sports betting.

Two members of Congress, Rep. Tom MacArthur (from New Jersey) and Rep. Dina Titus (from Nevada), recently sent a letter to House subcommittee leaders warning them to approach the topic of federal intervention with sports betting “with caution.” After all, both of their home states have a robust and/or growing retail and online sports betting market.

Yet the NFL, among others, continues to push for federal oversight.

Why?

“Without continued federal guidance and oversight … we are very concerned that sports leagues and state governments alone will not be able to fully protect the integrity of sporting contests and guard against the harms Congress has long recognized as being associated with sports betting.”

Interestingly, Moore wrote that the NFL “is not advocating for a sweep expansion of federal law at the expense of state sovereignty.”

Though the league is asking “for core standards … to protect the integrity of our game and, by extension, the millions of fans who are your constituents.”

No action is expected to be taken out of Thursday’s hearing, scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Though the debate about federal involvement with legal sports betting will certainly heat up in the months ahead.

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Grant Lucas

Grant Lucas is a longtime sportswriter who has covered high school, collegiate, and professional levels. A graduate of Linfield College in McMinnville, Grant now focuses his attention on the growing NJ online gambling and sports betting scene.

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