The NFL continues to oppose all attempts to legalise sports betting in the United States even though there is an immense demand for it in the country.
Besides, the league’s opposition to sports gambling doesn’t make sense in the light of its long term association with fantasy football leagues as well as casino operators.
The NBA, NHL, MLB and NCAA in addition to the NFL, had challenged a New Jersey law that attempted to make sports betting legal and they received a favourable ruling from the Federal Court hearing the case.
NFL’s issue with sports betting has to do with the fact that it may lead the teams and individual athletes to cheat, bringing about erosion in public support for the sport.
The major sports leagues in the United States state that they wish to encourage ‘honest athletic competition’ by keeping gambling out of the picture; hence, the 2012 case to prevent the legalisation of sports betting in the country.
Brian McCarthy, spokesman of the NFL, made very clear that the League had not changed its long-held position on the subject of betting on NFL games.
The main NFL teams, when asked to comment on the development, preferred to deflect the question to the League instead.
What’s really surprising about this reticence on the part of the football teams is that many of them have long standing ties to the world of gambling, albeit in unusual ways.
Not many people are aware of the fact that the Pittsburgh Steelers founder actually helped keep his team in business thanks to an amazing 11 wins at the horse races that netted him a cool $380,000.
Art Rooney Sr. is also believed to have won lots of money by betting on boxing.
The team, with its string of losses, stayed afloat until it finally snatched the Super Bowl in 1975.
Rooney Sr. also invested in racetracks because of his passion for gambling. Eventually, the two ventures had to be separated under pressure from the NFL.
Other NFL team owners with ties to gambling include Timothy Mara, the founder of the New York Giants and Charles W. Bidwill Sr., founder of the Chicago Cardinals (as the Arizona Cardinals was once known).
The NFL doesn’t have any issues with entering into advertisement deals with casinos as long as certain restrictions are followed.
Casino advertising revenue can be quite large and many teams share the revenues with their players.
Further, almost two-thirds of all NFL teams have agreements with fantasy gambling companies, which do not come under the purview of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 because betting on fantasy sports teams is not considered to be gambling.
The NFL’s hard line on gambling has caused it to force footballers to pull out of poker tournaments and fantasy football conventions at various times.
In another instance, it also compelled Patriots owner Robert Kraft to shelve his plans of building a $1 billion casino adjacent to the Gillette Stadium.
The game of football loses as a result of the League’s blinkered approach to sports betting since this is simply another way that fans participate in it.