For the very first time, football enthusiasts in Nevada will be able to place bets on the outcome of the NFL draft. Earlier this month, the Nevada Gaming Control Board (“NGCB”) granted approval for the state’s sports books to offer proposition bets on the draft. Proposition bets, or “prop bets” as they are sometimes referred to, are bets made regarding the occurrence or non-occurrence during a particular event not directly affecting the final outcome.
While bettors won’t be able to wager on which player will be the No. 1 overall pick, they will be able to put money on any number of broader categories of things including: the total number of running backs drafted in the first round, the over/under on the number of wide receivers drafted in the first round, and the total number of players drafted from a particular college or conference for the entire draft, just to name a few.
If you’ve followed the NFL’s relationship with sports gambling, you know that this move is likely worrisome for Roger Goodell and Co. Sports gambling has been effectively outlawed in the United States since 1992, with the exception of four states, one of those being Nevada – and the league has always maintained its opposition to the legalization of sports betting on the federal level. “We are not changing our position as it relates to legalized sports gambling,” Goodell recently told Peter King of TheMMQB.com “we still don’t think it is a positive thing.”
However, the passage of this bill by the NGCB and the recent approval by NFL owners to move the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas, while not connected, may be signaling a change in the attitudes of those with the power to make the switch. Those familiar with the league may also look at the NFL’s willingness to accept advertising money from companies like FanDuel and DraftKings as a signal of a change of heart. Further, the league has eagerly embraced fantasy football as a way to help drive interest in its sport, and while fantasy sports aren’t considered gambling under federal law, that’s because of the NFL, which lobbied Congress for an exclusion in the law that kept them distinguished from traditional gambling, and therefore legal.
So, what do the actions of the NFL, its owners, and the NGCB mean for the legalization of sports gambling across the country? Nothing. Not yet, at least. However, each action taken in this area by the league and its owners signals a shift in the way these groups view sports gambling.
And a shift could be coming sooner rather than later. Late last year, the State of New Jersey petitioned the Supreme Court to review a decision by the Third Circuit in Christie v. National Collegiate Athletic Association that would render the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act unconstitutional, allowing New Jersey casinos and racetracks to open up sports books.
The Supreme Court recently requested an opinion from the acting Solicitor General on the matter, which has not yet been filed. However, this move by the Supreme Court has provided New Jersey with some hope. If they simply agreed with the court decisions that came before them, they could have easily denied New Jersey’s petition and closed the case down for good. However, the parties will now have to wait and see what the Supreme Court decides to do after its review of the opinion from the Solicitor General.
A Christie decision in favor of New Jersey would give the state the opportunity to capitalize on sports gambling in the same way that Las Vegas has. It would also open the doors for other states to consider whether allowing sports gambling is something they want to explore – and all of that would give the NFL the permission it needs to back off of the strict stance it has taken on sports gambling in the past.
After all, the NFL and its owners are in the business of making money, and if they are presented with another opportunity to cash in on those willing to wager on professional football, you can bet they will jump on it.