On the eve of the NFL’s spring meeting in Atlanta, commissioner Roger Goodell tentatively embraced sports betting and called on Congress to “enact uniform standards” for states that opt to regulate.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell wants federal help to enforce his four core principles, but what is the league really after? It’s likely its main goal is to monetize sports betting by forcing sports books to pay for its official data. (Image: LM Otero/Associated Press)

These, he wrote, must include four “core principles,” as follows:

  1. There must be substantial consumer protections
  2. Sports leagues can protect our content and intellectual property from those who attempt to steal or misuse it
  3. Fans will have access to official, reliable league data
  4. Law enforcement will have the resources, monitoring and enforcement tools necessary to protect our fans and penalize bad actors here and abroad

No Integrity Fee, But…

The NFL has long been opposed to legal, regulated sports betting but — unlike the NBA and MLB, which accepted the inevitable last year and began lobbying for their own interests — the league has remained relatively silent on the issue.

But the NFL has not had its head in the sand all this time, according to Goodell, who said the organization had spent considerable time preparing for the advent of legal US sports betting.

We have … prepared to address these changes in a thoughtful and comprehensive way, including substantial education and compliance trainings for our clubs, players, employees and partners,” he wrote. “These efforts include supporting commonsense legislation that protects our players, coaches and fans and maintains public confidence in our games.”

Unlike the NBA, MLB, and more recently the PGA, the NFL is not demanding a so-called “integrity fee” — a percentage cut of all bets on its games — but its emphasis on the protection of its content and intellectual property suggests that it may be planning to monetize its data and stats by forcing sports books to pay for them.

Federal Sports Betting Bill Proposed

Many state lawmakers have rejected the integrity fee proposed by the NBA et al, seeing it as little more than a cash grab that will hamper the new sports books and take money away from individual states. The NFL clearly feels that asking for federal approval of its “core principals” may be a more effective way to get what it wants than via state-by-state lobbying.

US Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), one of the original authors of PASPA, is known to have had talks with the NFL and is planning to introduce federal sports betting legislation designed to “help protect honesty and principle in the athletic arena.”

But the Supreme Court repealed PASPA because it was deemed by the justices to be a violation of states’ Tenth Amendment rights, which outlines that some states cannot be held to federal laws that other states do not have to comply with. In addition, Congress has to date not shown interest as a body in federal gaming legislation, and it’s unlikely that position will change when it comes to legal sports betting.