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If the public can learn one thing from last week’s congressional hearing on legal sports betting, it’s that the NFL wants a piece of the pie so badly it’s willing to hide behind the idea the integrity of its games is at stake to get it.
So far, the states that have launched legal and regulated sports betting have refused to cut the league in. No one is buying that the only way to stop NFL game fixing is to force sportsbooks to buy its data.
However, that didn’t stop NFL Executive Vice President Jocelyn Moore from asking Congress to set up a federal framework forcing sportsbooks to pay up.
At the first federal hearing on sports betting since the US Supreme Court did away with the previous federal sports betting framework, Moore asked for some big favors on behalf of the NFL.
Official league data
Essentially, the league wants Congress to force states to follow standardized regulations to govern sports betting.
It wants to make sure acceptable age limits are enforced and responsible gambling resources are provided. Plus, it hopes to ensure there’s a consistent effort to prevent money laundering and corruption. All of these things seem fair.
The problem is the NFL also wants the feds to make the use of official league data a requirement. Since the league would presumably charge sportsbooks for the data, this sounds like a cash grab.
Every NFL game is on TV nationally and heavily scrutinized by millions of fans and dozens of media outlets. The data is out there already. Legal and regulated sportsbooks across the country have no problem accessing it now. They get it either for free or at minimal cost.
Forcing sportsbooks to buy it from the NFL is just a way for the league to get its share. Unfortunately, making someone pay for something they could otherwise get for free sounds almost criminal. Worse yet, the NFL is asking the Congress to collect for them.
One of Moore’s main arguments is that it will protect consumers from fake matches:
“Use of official league data also protects consumers from fake matches or “ghost games” created by criminals or unscrupulous operators. In this scenario, a sports betting fixture is listed through one of the numerous companies that provide unofficial data to the bookmaking industry. But it is either a fake match (one that takes places but is played between two different teams than the ones listed) or a ghost game (one that does not take place at all).”
Apparently, Moore has found examples of this activity in obscure lower level soccer leagues operating in remote locations. While that may be the case, the NFL is the furthest thing from a low-level soccer league.
She claimed to be concerned NFL fans might find themselves betting on fake in-game prop bets. She said requiring sports betting operators to use authentic league data would prevent that.
The NFL wants a piece
However, it sounds more like an innovative way to get the NFL a piece of legal sports betting revenue. Plus, she wants Congress to help the league go after it.
Moore’s argument that “the absence of a clear and enforceable set of legal standards for sports betting” threatens the integrity of sports in this country sounds solid. However, it’s just hyperbole she’s using to mask the fact the NFL feels if Americans are going to bet on its games, it wants a piece.
Moore didn’t come right out an ask for an integrity fee. The NBA, MLB, and PGA have tried that previously, but so far, no state has bought it either.
Perhaps the NFL thinks backdoor cash grabs that use Congress as a bagman and hide behind integrity arguments are more likely to work.