The most common argument that professional leagues and team owners made in opposition to the legalization of sports betting is that sports betting would ruin the integrity of the game. Billions of dollars are wagered on sports illegally without sports being tainted, so this claim largely was a public relations move. Recently, with the United States Supreme Court looking at whether theProfessional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA) is constitutional, team owners and league commissioners are softening their stances on sports betting or actively pursuing its legalization.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said:
Jerry Jones on the sports betting issue and the Supreme Court, "I don't see that gaming compromises the integrity of the game." https://t.co/2PVVv69HdX
— 105.3 The FAN (@1053thefan) December 15, 2017
NBA Commissioner Dan Silver said in 2014 that he was in favor for the legalization of sports betting. In 2016, former NBA Commissioner David Stern, who was steadfast against the legalization of sports betting when he was the active commissioner, has since changed his mind saying, “Over time, I’ve come to accept the notion that a properly run gambling operation, or gaming as we like to say in Las Vegas, is protective and not deleterious to the health of sports.”
The NFL had to come to terms with sports betting most recently when the Raiders decided to move from Oakland to Las Vegas. Goodell and other owners had been against a NFL team in Vegas because of the obvious connections to sports betting. But even leading up to the official announcement Goodell’s stance on sports betting seemed to soften. He said that there would be a benefit to regulating sports betting, which would only happen the way he discussed it if it were legalized nation-wide, even though the league still opposes sports betting. The NFL will also not ask for sports books to not take bets on Raiders games. A canary in the coal mine moment was when ESPN was able to post betting lines on NFL games. That may not seem like a big deal but the NFL once pulled media as part of an effort to get ESPN to cancel a show called “Playmakers” that painted professional football in a fictitious league as detrimental to the NFL.
One of the more noteworthy parts of the arguments for the defense of PASPA was that protecting the integrity of sporting events was not mentioned. Protecting the integrity of games was the main pillar of sports leagues and owners as to why they didn’t want sports betting, but when it came time to argue in front of the Supreme Court, the argument was missing. This not only re-affirms that the argument was a public relations move but that leagues may be recognizing that the legalization, and thus following regulation, could actually protect the integrity of the game through careful monitoring of all betting action.