NFL’s Gambling Stance Highlights Drastic Policy Change From Early Years

Posted on: April 5, 2017, 05:00h. 

Last updated on: April 5, 2017, 12:19h.

The NFL recently voted in favor of allowing the Oakland Raiders to relocate to Las Vegas, and while the move won’t officially happen until the start of the 2019 season at the earliest, the approval has thrust the league’s position on gambling into the national spotlight.

NFL gambling Las Vegas Pete Rozelle
Pete Rozelle is often credited with making the NFL what it is today, but the former commissioner might not like what he sees regarding Las Vegas if he were still alive. (Image: Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

The National Football League has long opposed sports betting and gambling. Current NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell maintains those principles, but he works for the owners, and the bosses wanted Las Vegas.

The overwhelming 31-1 vote in support of Raiders owner Mark Davis moving to Vegas shows little opposition to playing games just steps from legalized sports betting markets. That highlights a drastic policy change in the NFL from prior decades.

Fumbling Foundation

Former Commissioner Pete Rozelle, perhaps the most important and influential leader in developing the league to what it is today, governed professional football in America for 29 years. The longest tenure of the eight NFL commissioners to date, Rozelle took a rather conservative approach in leading the game.

According to a Town Hall article written this week by Andy Schlafly, Rozelle didn’t allow the NFL to play games on Christmas so not to interfere with the Christian holiday. In 2016, Christmas Eve fell on a Sunday and 12 games were contested. The next day on December 25, two marquee games were broadcast nationally.

Schlafly says Rozelle also placed a ban on players visiting Las Vegas during the football season. Vegas was additionally blocked from marketing opportunities during the Super Bowl.

Rozelle was terrified over game integrity, and felt Vegas was enemy #1. Twenty-eight years after his commissionership ended in 1989, the NFL is now ready to play at least eight games a year just steps from the famed Strip in Sin City.

NFL Changing, or US?

Gambling in the United States back in 1989 was of course drastically different than today. Casinos were still largely confined to Las Vegas and Atlantic City, but over the last three decades states have expanded gambling in an attempt to bring in new forms of tax revenue.

In May of 2016, the American Gaming Association (AGA) concluded that 26 of the NFL’s 32 teams play their home games within a one-hour drive of a casino. It’s a leading reason why all but Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross cast votes in favor of the Raiders’ wishes to move to Vegas.

Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, explained last year, “I came into the league in 1994. Back then, any exploration of that market (Vegas) was dismissed. The sports gaming risks in Vegas are no longer exclusive to Vegas.”

With gambling significantly changing over the years, many believe it’s also time to repeal the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, the law that restricts full-fledged sports betting to Nevada. President Trump recently said he would be willing to consider such legislation, but would first want to hear all sides of the issue.