Thursday will be a busy day in D.C.
In additional to a fairly important meeting at the White House and a fairly important hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the House Judiciary Committee will take up the issue of the federal regulation of sports betting.
A written statement submitted by NFL Executive V.P. for Communications and Public Affairs Jocelyn Moore includes various requests from the NFL regarding any legislation that Congress may craft. Two elements stand out.
First, citing arguably irrational fears of fake matches or “ghost games,” the NFL wants states that adopt legalized betting to be required to use “official league data.”
“Betting outcomes are increasingly determined on granular details like yardage gained, or the number of sacks by a defense, or strikes by a pitcher in baseball,” Moore writes. “Therefore, an essential component of consumer protection is a requirement that the information used to settle these wagers is correct and timely, something that can only come from official data provided by the sports leagues themselves. Sports leagues already produce this data for broadcast and statistical purposes. Our data should be the standard in a legal, regulated market. For these reasons, requiring the use of official league data is vital to establishing and maintaining marketplace integrity, which is in the public interest.”
It’s also in the NFL’s interest to push for this, because access to “official league data” likely would come at a cost, giving the league a way to create a revenue stream without relying upon the hokey and hypocritical notion of an “integrity fee.”
Still, concerns over fake bets seem a little far fetched. Does the NFL think that states will try to grift bettors through “fake in-game proposition bets, bets that seem real but are in fact fraudulently designed to dupe unsophisticated bettors”? But, hey, by stoking that fear the NFL could help set itself up for a big ol’ pile of money for nothing, via the sharing of official data that it already compiles — and that anyone who pays close attention to the games could also compile.
Second, the NFL wants to have the ability to put the kibosh on certain types of in-game prop bets, arguing that “[t]hese types of bets are significantly more susceptible to match-fixing efforts, and are therefore a source of concern to sports leagues, individual teams, and the athletes who compete.”
“Specifically, professional 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,” Moore writes. “Examples of such wagers would include those based on performances of a single athlete or the actions of match officials and referees.”
It’s unclear where the line would be drawn on this, but it would be hard to justify banning betting on, for example, whether Adrian Peterson rushes for more than 100 yards while also permitting legalized wagering on fantasy football games that depend on his performance. It’s also a bit confusing that the NFL would want to artificially restrict the potential universe of in-game wagering, given the money that could be made by embracing any and every type of prop bet imaginable.
The overall mood and appetite for Congressional action remains unclear, in part because the government currently is dealing with plenty of other issues far more pressing to the broader national interests. But it’s clear that the NFL would prefer to have a national set of standards over the possibility of having 50 different sets of rules in 50 different states.