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Congress looks at NFL's gambling policy as new season begins

The Congressional Gaming Caucus is not happy with a recent NFL response to an increase in suspensions.
Congress looks at NFL's gambling policy as new season begins
Posted at 5:04 AM, Sep 07, 2023

The NFL season kicks off Thursday night with the Detroit Lions taking on the Kansas City Chiefs.

While you might not think of sports as needing any intervention from Congress or the lawmakers in our nation's capital, there is a debate going on about whether the federal government needs to be more involved with professional sports, including football.

Why the concern?

Much of this concern stems from 10 NFL players being suspended for gambling violations in recent months, impacting the Denver Broncos, Tennessee Titans, Indianapolis Colts and Detroit Lions.

Last year, a coach from the New York Jets was even suspended.

That has attracted the attention of the bipartisan Congressional Gaming Caucus in Washington.

Earlier this summer, the co-chair of that group, Democratic Rep. Dina Titus of Nevada, wrote a letter to the NFL.

"When players get suspended and coaches get fired, that means the system is working," Rep. Titus wrote.

"The goal, however, should be to stop these bets before they are placed," Titus added.

Within the last few weeks, the NFL responded to that letter:

"There is no higher principle at the NFL than safeguarding the integrity of the game," the NFL's vice president of government affairs, Jonathan Nabavi, wrote back.

Nabavi added, "We believe that additional attention and resources are needed from lawmakers and law enforcement to address the illicit sports betting market."

SEE MORE: ESPN reaches $1.5 billion sports betting agreement with PENN

Expert perspective

N. Jeremi Duru is a law professor at American University who specializes in sports, ethics, and their impact on society. Duru says this is a complicated issue for the NFL.

"Placing bets right now is incredibly easy," Duru added.

On one hand, sports betting is legal in over 30 states, and the NFL has official partnerships with Caesars, DraftKings and FanDuel, relationships that bring in millions and create new excitement for fans.

But on the other hand, the sport can't risk the potential harm gambling could cause the game.

"They want to avoid any sort of incentive that would result in players throwing a game," Duru said.

The NFL, for its part, has instituted mandatory training and requires every player to sign a document agreeing to never bet on the NFL, including no placing of bets by any family members, no entering sportsbooks during the NFL season, and no gambling of any kind while on the road during away games.

But those policies have confused some players, and mobile betting has become more popular.

"I think what is notable about it is the NFL's policy is somewhat nuanced," Duru said.

SEE MORE: As sports betting grows, is the integrity of sports at risk?

As for Congress, Scripps News has learned Titus was not pleased with the NFL's response to her letter.

In a statement, she said, "To protect the integrity of the game, sports fans, league officials, and athletes alike need for this information to be clearly communicated and equitably enforced."

"The NFL refused to provide this information in their response to my letter. As I said at the time, it makes you wonder what they're trying to hide," Titus added.

Regarding gambling overall, Congress has traditionally stayed away from the topic. For years, no federal funds have gone to gambling addiction services. Additionally, legislation in the House of Representatives to ban gambling advertisements has stalled.

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