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NFL Gambling Policy Can Benefit From Small Modification

NFL Gambling Policy Can Benefit From Small Modification

May 10, 2023

NFL Gambling Policy Can Benefit From Small Modification

By: Steven Eichorn

Recently, the NFL suspended five players for violations of the league’s gambling policy. Three players received indefinite bans (with the right to apply for reinstatement after the 2023 season) because they were caught betting on NFL games in the 2022 season, while two other players received six-game suspensions for betting on non-NFL games at a league facility (i.e., they were betting on college games at the team’s practice facility).

NFL’s Unique Gambling Policy

The NFL’s gambling policy includes a facility and travel ban that prohibits players from engaging in “any form of Gambling in any club or League facility or venue (e.g., practice facility, stadium, team hotel, Draft or other League or club event); on any League or club charter or other transport; while traveling on club or League business; or while making an endorsement or promotional appearance.”

The NFL’s Gambling Policy states that it was enacted because gambling “presents risks to the integrity of our competition and team cohesion, and can undermine the confidence and trust of our fans and colleagues in America’s greatest game.” The risk to the integrity of NFL games and the trust of fans is easily understood as a reason to ban betting on football because NFL players would be betting on NFL games that they could negatively influence and/or may have insider information about from other players. However, the extension of the gambling ban to include a facility and travel ban- which prohibits betting even on other sports while in a facility or travelling- is difficult to explain as being connected to any integrity concern.

Curiously, the policy banning wagers placed at a team facility or while travelling is unique to the NFL and the other major professional sports leagues don’t have any equivalent rule. For instance, the other major professional sports leagues prohibit players, coaches, and team personnel from betting on league games because of integrity concerns (and that applies even if a player or coach isn’t involved in the specific game). However, the other sports leagues generally allow players to gamble on non-league games at the time and place of their choosing and have no facility and travel ban.

Even more puzzling is that the NFL clearly has no compunctions about promoting gambling activity as seen in the endless advertisements from sportsbooks. Plus, NFL players are free to bet on any legal non-sports gambling because those are specifically exempted in the NFL’s Gambling Policy for all NFL Personnel, who “may participate in legal non-sports gambling on personal time (when not traveling on club or League business), including during the season.” So, the NFL has no moral concerns about gambling or players involvement in gambling, yet, it finds it necessary to strictly enforce a facility and travel ban for players wagering on other professional sports.

Interestingly, even the NFL’s own gambling policy adopted the proper balance on allowing player participation and the integrity of the game concerns when dealing with fantasy sports. Specifically, fantasy sports contests generally are not considered to be gambling, but the participation by NFL Personnel in fantasy football games is subject to certain limitations” (e.g. prize limits, a blanket prohibition on daily fantasy sports) in order “to avoid any appearance of impropriety which may result from participation in fantasy football games by individuals perceived to have an unfair advantage due to their preferential access to information.” Clearly, the NFL is able to permit participating in fantasy sports

(other than fantasy football) while still ensuring integrity of the game concerns. Therefore, there is no reason why the NFL cannot remove their facility and travel ban, whether players may be betting on fantasy sports or other professional sports, while still protecting the integrity of the game.

NFL Should Modernize its Policy

Because there are no integrity concerns with the facility and travel ban, the NFL should alter its facility and travel ban rules to better match up with other professional sports leagues. In short, the facility and travel ban does not impact the integrity of the game and there is no reason for the NFL to continue implementation of its facility and travel ban. Interestingly, the other professional sports leagues do not have a facility and travel ban, and, they also have far fewer sports betting policy violations.

Notably, the league itself conceded there were no integrity concerns that arose during their recent investigation as per its statement: “A league review uncovered no evidence indicating any inside information was used or that any game was compromised in any way.”

Therefore, there is little reason for the NFL to continue with its facility and travel ban. A facility and travel ban does not contribute to ensuring the integrity of the sport and unreasonably infringes on the permitted activities of NFL players, while leading to an outsized number of infraction and player suspensions for activities that do not affect the game and are therefore not prohibited by the other professional sports leagues.

Steven Eichorn

Steven Eichorn

Steven Eichorn works with clients at the forefront of the technology, eCommerce, igaming and sports gambling industries. For both established companies and startups, Steven helps with licensing applications, legal opinions, buyouts and acquisitions, commercial agreements and ICOs, in addition to general legal matters like corporate formation documents, operation agreements and employee contracts.

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