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NFL Looks To Keep Evolving With Sports Betting Landscape




NFL Looks To Keep Evolving With Sports Betting Landscape

The first Super Bowl to be held in the sports betting capital of the United States offers many things. Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas can be viewed as a the NFL‘s public report card of sorts as it tries to keep pace with the ever-changing wagering landscape.

“We are always going to be concerned about game integrity and we’re always going to be concerned about the risks associated with any city as we prepare for a Super Bowl as we are here,” said Jeff Miller, Executive Vice President of NFL Communications. “While Las Vegas is a symbol because it’s had sports gambling for quite some time, it’s also a very sophisticated city and mature city as it relates to engagement with the NFL and other sports at this point that makes us very comfortable playing a game there.” 

Miller and NFL General Manager of Sports Betting David Highhill touched on multiple sports-betting related subjects in a teleconference with media including responsible gambling, enforcement of policies on all league personnel beyond players, finding a balance of the volume of sports betting advertisements without oversaturating the airwaves, and the need for constant transparency as it relates to the integrity of the game itself.

Though the sixth anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court striking down PASPA is still months away, there was a time the NFL was adamantly against sports betting becoming legal on a state-by-state basis. Previous NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue was a supporter of PASPA as it was being drafted in the early 1990s by then-New Jersey senator Bill Bradley, and current Commissioner Roger Goodell testified against legal betting on NFL games in 2012.

That opposition completely melted away by 2021, when the league entered a tri-exclusive deal in making mobile betting apps FanDuel, DraftKings, and Caesars official league partners. The deal gave each operator the ability to use league marks in advertising and first among equals in various disciplines of gambling. In the nearly three years since that deal — worth a reported $1 billion for five years — the NFL has become arguably the biggest driver of sports wagering handle. With that comes the challenge of keeping the integrity of the game paramount through partnerships the league has with operators and data distributors.

“I testified to something similar, by the way, before the Delaware legislature early in my NFL career when that state was trying to legalize sports betting,” Miller said regarding the turnabout to embrace betting beyond Las Vegas. “In a world with legalized sports gambling and the proliferation of the opportunities for people to sports gamble, we have to think about the problem differently.

“The challenge is the same … which is to say we have to make sure people see the game and value the integrity of the game in the same way they had before … to make sure when they look at the game a week from Sunday there isn’t a doubt in their mind that the integrity of the game is the foremost concern in the NFL’s approach in a world where sports gambling is legal, and there shouldn’t be.”

The NFL has had a series of player suspensions due to violation of league policies when it comes to sports betting, and it has begun an investigation into New England Patriots wide receiver Kayshon Boutte, who was arrested last Thursday in Louisiana for underage wagering that allegedly included him placing bets on himself while playing collegiately at LSU.

The NFL offers training on its policies for all 17,000 people who it feels are connected to the game-day experience, and this year added a video for rookies to watch along with general in-person sessions. With the Super Bowl in Las Vegas, much of the talk has surrounded the league’s monitoring efforts as players and personnel are not permitted to gamble on the Las Vegas Strip in any fashion. Additionally, both teams have situated their headquarters away from The Strip to lessen potential distractions.

“The rules are no different for the participating teams, players, and other personnel as they would be for any other game,” Miller said. “When on business, there’s no gambling, whether it be sports gambling or otherwise. And any player, coach, personnel, yours truly, who would be caught or identified gambling at a casino would be eligible for the disciplinary process. And that would be addressed as the normal course of discipline as we would any player or any other personnel (if) there was evidence violating the rules around gambling.

“I would just say broadly, for all [of] us that work at the NFL, I think our concerns around the Super Bowl are, it is a massive event and we’ve got to deliver for our fans,” Highhill added. “Game integrity is certainly a piece of that and that’s something we think about, as Jeff said, every game, but we have to deliver full weeks worth of activities and pull of a fantastic game Sunday.”

One point of frustration among the general public has been the seemingly relentless bombardment of sportsbook commercials in legal markets. The league recognizes the issue as part of its ongoing studies in evaluating NFL fans who are bettors versus NFL fans who do not want to wager, but Miller and Highhill both pointed out the NFL is doing its part in terms of keeping the volume of ads down during games.

The NFL has a policy of limiting ads to one pre-game ad and one ad per quarter of each game, which results in the total number of ads per game accounting for less than 5% of all ads. Highhill gets the frustration that comes with what feels like oversaturation and that the league gets held accountable for programming beyond its reach.

“Unfortunately, we can’t control all ads everywhere, but I think we’ve taken a very measured and conservative approach there to try and serve our fans well, and we’ll continue to evaluate with the right mixes there,” Highhill said.

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