Opinion: Why the NFL fears legalized sports betting Jeff Ifrah and Griffin Finan are attorneys at Ifrah Law, a Washington, D.C.-based firm that specializes in Internet gambling. Jeff Ifrah is a former special assistant U.S. attorney for the district of New Jersey.
WHAT is really at stake in today’s hearing in Trenton challenging New Jersey’s attempt to legalize sports betting in the state?
Money. The sports leagues will focus their argument on why a federal statute – known as the Professional and Amateur Protection Act, or PASPA — prohibits New Jersey from going forward and permitting its casinos and racetracks from offering legal sports betting.
But this case is really about the leagues preserving their own profits and not sharing.
The leagues have argued that the further spread of legal gambling will harm the integrity of their games. That is hard to swallow given that sports betting is so prevalent here and across the world.
According to the Nevada Gaming Commission, in 2011, $3.2 billion was wagered in sports bets in the state’s casinos, and of that amount, $1.34 billion, or nearly 42 percent, was bet on college and pro football. On this year’s Super Bowl, $98.9 million was wagered in Nevada alone.
The National Gaming Impact Commission estimates that $380 billion is wagered a year on football through offshore accounts and illegal betting. People are betting on football whether the NFL likes it or not.
Clearly, the leagues are using the ever successful “integrity of the game” to conceal what is really at issue for them in this case — revenue the leagues reap from fantasy sports. Fantasy sports are now estimated to be a $5 billion-a-year industry with an estimated 33 million Americans participating in fantasy football leagues. The NFL opines that fantasy sports do not constitute prohibited games under PASPA.
The NFL’s official website, NFL.com, offers a few different fantasy games as well as a vast collection of additional fantasy football-related content that features very prominently on its website. One game allows for a player to win a trip to the Pro Bowl in Hawaii for correctly guessing the score of a single football game.