The NFL suspended five players April 21 — three indefinitely — for violating the league’s gambling policy.
Two days earlier, the league joined a coalition of professional sports organizations committed to a responsible approach toward sports betting advertising.
The separate announcements highlight the conundrum facing the NFL and all professional sports leagues that have latched on to the expansion of legal sports betting across the U.S. to 33 states and Washington, D.C.
The millions in advertising dollars and partnerships with sports betting operators are too lucrative to ignore.
But at the same time, just one scandal involving a player betting on their own games would flush away any credibility the leagues and operators have sought hard to build.
Five players in the past four years have been banned by the NFL for betting on league games. Two Detroit Lions players were suspended for six games last week for gambling violations that did not include betting on NFL games.
In a statement, the NFL said a “league review uncovered no evidence indicating any inside information was used or that any game was compromised in any way.”
The league said it was part of the newly formed Coalition for Responsible Sports Betting Advertising, which wants to take steps to ensure an accountable approach to the sports betting marketing efforts that dominate the airwaves during games.
In addition to the NFL, the coalition includes Major League Baseball, the NBA, the NHL, the WNBA, Major League Soccer and NASCAR, as well as sports broadcasting networks NBCUniversal and FOX.
The coalition was formed to help the sports leagues balance the millions of dollars sports betting operators spend on advertising their product — customer acquisition is the term used by the betting companies — with the integrity of the games.
In its statement, the coalition said legal gambling advertising should only be marketed to adults of legal betting age, not promote excessive gambling, not be misleading and be in good taste. The coalition also said the leagues and networks should have internal reviews for the ads and have a process for addressing consumer complaints.
But untangling the prevalence of sports betting marketing will be challenging. For example, during NHL playoff games, announcers often mention in-play betting odds (accompanied by a televised graphic) from DraftKings on which player might score the game’s next goal.
The gaming industry is also coming up with ways to better track who exactly is making sports wagers.
ProhiBet, a product offered by Nevada-based technology provider US Integrity, gives regulated sportsbooks a real-time monitoring and blocking tool that can ban certain gamblers — including players, team executives and team personnel — from making wagers.
The American Gaming Association, which has advocated for responsibility in sports betting advertising, said in a statement the effort by the leagues and networks closely mirrors commitments by members of the Washington, D.C.-based trade organization.
“These efforts reflect a shared prioritization of responsible gaming and consumer protection,” said AGA Senior Vice President Casey Clark. “Building a sustainable legal wagering market requires alignment from the entire sports betting ecosystem, and today’s announcement is another important step.”
This story was originally published by The Nevada Independent on April 26 and is republished here with permission.