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Players Unions Are Prepping For Legal Sports Betting

Players Unions Are Prepping For Legal Sports Betting

Though the federal law that makes sports betting largely illegal in U.S. still stands, players unions from several major sports leagues have started to discuss the potential impacts of legalized sports gambling.

The Players Unions Align

Representatives of the NBA, NFL, MLB, and NHL players unions have been having talks over the past 18 months to deliberate on how regulated sports betting will directly effect their member athletes. Executive directors include the MLBPA’s Tony Clark, NFLPA’s DeMaurice Smith, the NHLPA’s Donald Fehr, and the NBPA’s Michele Roberts.

George Atallah, assistant executive director of the NFL Players Association, confirmed the meetings in a recent interview with MMQB.

“Yes, the sports unions have been discussing the issue, in particular around the integrity of our respective games,” said Atallah. “We’re collaborating on it. We might be open to changes that are coming because of (legalized sports gambling), but before we get to the revenue aspect of it, do we have the infrastructure in place to prevent any sort of shenanigans? That’s the issue.”

What Prompted The Sports Betting Summits?

The changes that Atallah notes are in reference to the ongoing New Jersey sports betting case and recent team movements within the leagues.

The Supreme Court is nearing its decision on whether it will hear N.J’s appeal after being denied by the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals. The NHL and NFL have also both decided to move teams to Las Vegas- the NFL’s Oakland Raiders relocating by 2020, and the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights playing in the 2017-2018 season.

The Offshore Sportsbook Model

Though Nevada is the only state in the U.S. permitted to offer single-game sports wagering, sports betting is legal in plenty of overseas countries. Gibraltar is one of the top offshore sports betting jurisdictions, and other betting friendly countries include Malta, Costa Rica, and Panama. As part of their research, the players unions have started to look into how these countries regulate legalized sports betting. Protecting the integrity of the game has always been the main concern, a point that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell never fails to mention.

“Before we get to the revenue splits, how do you monitor behavior like they do in other parts of the world to ensure what we’re all watching isn’t fixed? That’s the question.” Said Atallah.

NFL Owners & Others Weigh In

As much as Goodell would like to deny it, attitudes in all of the major professional sports leagues have begun to change. The MMQB was able to have various NFL owners weigh in anonymously on the issue of legalized sports gambling.

“The first question, naturally, is going to be about gambling,” stated an NFC owner. “But any of us can pull our phones out of our pockets and place a bet right now. (The concern) is not 100 percent put to bed, but it’s relatively put to bed, just because of technology today.”

“From a gambling standpoint? That’s a joke to even say that’d be a problem,” said one AFC owner to The MMQB. “That was an issue decades ago. Now? Sports gambling is going to be legal. We might as well embrace it and become part of the solution, rather than fight it. It’s in everyone’s best interests for it to be above board.”

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has not been so secretive regarding his opinion of legal sports betting, at one point urging Congress to develop a federal structure for regulated sports betting.

The NHL is another plaintiff in the New Jersey sports betting case, but NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has expressed in the past that legal sports betting would not be as impactful on his league.

“Gambling, for us, is probably an entirely different focus than, say, football or basketball, either at the pro or at the college level. We’re about one percent of the book. Our game doesn’t lend itself to gambling in the same way that football and basketball do.”

None of the pro leagues have come out and given the 100% OK to legalized sports betting, but the meetings between executives of the players unions do imply that regulated sports wagering and legal gambling in the USA is inevitable.