NFL Pursues Sports Betting Wish List In New York After Coming Up Empty In New Jersey

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The NFL and its teams, for the most part, have stayed in the background compared to other pro sports organizations in this nearly one full year since the U.S. Supreme Court opened the door for legal, regulated sports betting in any state.

But on Wednesday, the New York Giants, New York Jets, and Buffalo Bills submitted testimony — described as being representative of “the National Football League’s view on sports betting” — to the New York State Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee, which held a hearing in Albany that day.

First, let’s note that the Giants and Jets play their home games at the Meadowlands in New Jersey, the state that not only kicked the door down to end the virtual ban on sports betting outside of Nevada, but which took its first bet just 31 days after the Supreme Court’s ruling. So there was little to no time for any shellshocked NFL officials to make a plea to New Jersey regulators regarding the wagering.

The game of ‘risk’

Also, one of the key goals presented by the teams to the committee already is dead in the water in New Jersey. The testimony, signed by executives of all three teams, seeks to “preclude risky betting fixtures.” This applies to bets that go beyond the traditional pregame wager on a point spread or a team to win.

“Examples might range,” the letter from the teams reads, “from the number of passing yards by a quarterback in a football game or number of points or rebounds by a team during a quarter of a basketball game, to the number of ‘throw-ins’ in a soccer match — or even how many flags a referee might throw in a contest.”

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The teams “encourage” the state to let sports leagues identify which bets are too risky. In New Jersey, that ship has sailed.

“‘[P]rofessional and amateur sports organizations should be able to restrict, limit, or exclude wagers that are not determined solely by the final score or outcome of the event, if the sports organization reasonably determines that such restriction would significantly decrease the risk to contest integrity,” the executives wrote.

It is true that there is a chance that sportsbook operators could become too eager to take bets with “risk” to “integrity” — although the books also have a self-interest in not getting beat by a crooked match or game.

The Jersey way

Regulators in New Jersey — the real home to the “New York” Giants and Jets — have gotten way out ahead of this issue.

At a Betting on Sports America panel at the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus two weeks ago, Division of Gaming Enforcement Director David Rebuck explained that while the state battled the sports organizations in court for six years, new Governor Murphy did not want to keep the battle going.

Instead, Rebuck said, he and his staff have been in communication with the NFL and other leagues to accept input from the leagues about betting concerns they might have.

But no, they have no interest in going the route suggested by the three franchises in this testimony.

“As part of this cooperation, they had asked for the ability, not to have veto power, but they wanted to be able to communicate directly with us about restrictions they might ask for on certain betting,” Rebuck told the audience. “We said we’d get back to them after a review of each request. It’s not an absolute veto power by any means — we’d never give them that — but there is dialogue.”

So New York is being asked to give the NFL something New Jersey would “never give.”

What about “official data”?

The teams also want to “protect consumers by requiring the use of official data” — which also was a non-starter in New Jersey. In fact, Rebuck advised regulators in other states to be leery of such requirements.

The letter says that “an essential component of consumer protection is the requirement that the information used to settle these wagers is correct and timely, something that can only come from official data provided by the leagues themselves … We believe our data should be the standard in a legal, regulated market.”

A bill pending in the New York Assembly would require sportsbooks in the state to remit 0.2% of the total wagered on league games to that league. Assembly sponsor Gary Pretlow said at that same Meadowlands event that rather than the now-infamous “integrity fee” title, he said he changed the name to “royalty,” as have some league officials.

Pretlow said he decided to aid the leagues, to “throw them a bone.”

There is no such bone, of course, in New Jersey or Nevada or the half-dozen other states that already have sportsbooks taking legal wagers.

The letter by the three teams adds that “while we respect the Court’s ruling, the absence of clear and enforceable legal standards for sports betting threatens the integrity of our nation’s professional and amateur sporting contests.”

Finding common ground

Some of the recommendations hardly are controversial, such as prohibiting operators from taking bets from athletes, coaches, referees, or anyone else involved with the leagues. Nevada figured this out many decades ago, and no state has yet been lax in this area.

Their recommended minimum age of 21 to place a wager also is the standard in Nevada, New Jersey, and the other jurisdictions (although in the same building that houses the Meadowlands’ FanDuel Sportsbook, those aged 18, 19, and 20 can walk a short distance and bet on races held at that track or elsewhere via simulcast wagering).

The suggestion of providing resources toward treatment of compulsive gambling also is a good one — as is the push for more aggressive crackdowns on illegal sportsbooks.

Another parallel to legal sports betting supporters is the teams’ recommendation to keep licensing fees and tax rates low enough “so that legal market participants are able to effectively compete with those in the illegal market.”

Photo by Vincent Carchietta / USA Today Sports

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John Brennan

John Brennan has covered NJ and NY sports business and gaming since 2002 and was a Pulitzer Prize Finalist in 2008, while reporting for The Bergen County Record.

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