After decades of arguing against regulated sports betting because it might impact the integrity of the game, an NFL lawyer recently coughed up the league’s real reason for the war on sports betting.

It turns out the league is actually worried that regulated sports betting might overshadow the product they’re putting on the field.

This revelation came in the form of an offhand comment from the League’s senior labor relations counsel, Brook Gardiner. Speaking at the 30th Annual Conference on Problem Gambling in Terrytown, NY, Gardiner told a discussion panel on sports betting:

One point to think about that people don’t mention as much, but is very prominent in the league’s discussions is: Would legalized gambling affect the product itself? Are we affecting the game itself or how people view the game, and does the game itself become tangential, and does the money-making enterprise become more important than the game?

This is very different from arguments the NFL has made in the past, which usually focus on the threat of game fixing. The new approach, which speaks to the thought that sports betting has the potential to become larger than the game itself is, frankly, a much more honest approach.

One needn’t look further than Australia to see how sports betting can overshadow the play on the field. In the Land Down Under, legislators have come down hard on a frenzied sports betting industry that dominated broadcast advertising with coverage of in-play betting. Americans who think that this situation couldn’t happen here should think back to the inescapable barrage of daily fantasy sports ads that dominated the airwaves until the DFS insider trading scandal broke.

While there’s more honesty in Gardiner’s words than we usually hear from the NFL, his words are still a bit misleading. Another way to look at this comment is that the League simply isn’t interested in sharing its product with another industry.

Regardless, it looks like the NFL will continue opposing regulated sports betting for the foreseeable future.

(Photo Courtesy of Mike Fischer)


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