NFL Takes Steady Approach to Embracing Sports Betting

American football on field with goalpost in background
NFL is focused on the perception of the game’s integrity when it comes to legalized sports betting.

30-second summary

  • Sports betting could increase NFL revenue by $2.3bn (£1.7bn) each year
  • League is considering how to embrace legalized sports betting
  • Integrity of the sport is important to the NFL

Slow but steady

The National Football League (NFL) is taking tentative steps toward accepting legalized sports betting. Its focus is on the “perception of integrity” of the game, according to Marc Ganis, co-founder of Sportscorp Ltd, a consulting firm.

Legalized sports betting is steadily taking off in the US. Since a New Jersey Supreme Court ruling last May overturned a 1992 law that banned sports betting except in Nevada, seven states have legalized it. They are Delaware, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia.

Yet, despite the increasing acceptance of sports betting, it seems that the NFL is taking a reserved stance.

Speaking to Yahoo Sports following a yearly meeting in which the league’s 32 owners were presented with an update on what the NFL is doing regarding sports betting, Ganis said: “They are very focused on integrity and perception of integrity in the game … and this morning, there was a presentation that included that. That was the first thing that was on the board, that was put up there, as the single most important factor in gambling.”

Even though there is an increasing appetite for sports betting in the US, with 60% of Americans supporting legalized sports betting, the league and its owners are taking a slow approach. So much so, that in order to prevent game-fixing incidents as much as possible, research is being undertaken to determine how the NFL can take advantage of the revenue while maintaining the integrity of the sport.

Earlier this month, a National Basketball Association (NBA) Commissioner said that the chance of corruption is lower with legalized sports betting. According to the American Gaming Association, legalized sports betting would help the NFL’s revenue increase by around $2.3bn (£1.7bn) each year.

This week, the general manager of the Seattle Mariners baseball team said that gambling in gaming was an “evolution of society,” and that the sport is adapting to what its fan base wants. This could be the attitude that the NFL eventually takes; however, for now it feels taking a slow and steady pace is far better in the long term rather than rushing in for short-term success.

Capturing sports betting revenue

While most sports organizations have been against sports gambling in the past, since the New Jersey ruling most of them have been keen to get involved in some way after realizing they had no chance of changing the decision.

The NFL is no exception.

Last August, it was reported that the league would allow its teams to obtain casino sponsorships. Since the NFL was one of the major sporting organizations that lobbied against the New Jersey Supreme Court ruling, it was a surprising move. In September, it was revealed that the NFL would allow gambling advertising during the season.

The phrase “If you can’t beat them, join them” springs to mind.

However, regardless of the stance that the NFL previously took, it seems that now it is slowly changing. While maintaining the integrity of the sport is important, the revenue that sports betting could help bring in is something that the league can’t ignore. Now, it just needs to figure out the best move forward.