NFL pushes Congress for federal betting framework

League calls for extensive restrictions on prop bets and data and age restriction of 21


The NFL has argued for restrictions on betting markets and a requirement for the use of official league data as part of federal regulations enforceable across the US in a Congressional hearing.

Speaking at the ‘Post-PASPA: An Examination of Sports Betting in America’ hearing on Capitol Hill on Thursday, Jocelyn Moore, the league's executive vice-president for communications and public affairs, called for new laws to limit wagers on prop bets, such as how many flags are thrown by referees or how many yards quarterbacks throw for.

The NFL also wants a national sports-betting framework with substantive safeguards for consumers, as well as tools for law enforcement and standards to protect the NFL’s content and intellectual property. Moore also called for betting to be restricted to those over 21.

While Moore stopped short of recommending overall federal oversight of sports betting, she advised that there should be federal policies in place to govern the activity.

The Judiciary Committee hearing was the first to discuss the federal response to the repeal of PASPA in May, since when states such as New Jersey have unilaterally passed laws allowing betting within their boundaries.

Moore said: “Without continued federal guidance and oversight, we are very concerned that sports leagues and state governments alone will not be able to fully protect the integrity of sporting contests and guard against the harms Congress has long recognised as being associated with sports betting.”

The hearing is seen as the first step in examining whether federal oversight is needed in the new betting landscape, with committee chairman Bob Goodlatte calling the issue "ripe for consideration." In his closing remarks, hearing chair Jim Sensenbrenner suggested that the federal authorities must have some involvement.

"I think the one thing you all can agree on is for Congress to do nothing is the worst possible alternative," he said. "So this means we have some work to do."

While some argued that the national, cross-state nature of sport meant a unified response was necessary, the American Gaming Association’s (AGA) Sara Slane said states had shown for some years they are able to regulate gaming effectively.

Slane said: “Just as Congress has refrained from regulating lotteries, slot machines, table games and other gambling products, it should leave sports betting oversight to the states and tribes that are closest to the market. With such robust and rigorous regulatory oversight at both the state and federal levels, there is no need to overcomplicate or interfere with a system that is already working.”

Putting the case for the industry, and reinforcing the argument for state-by-state oversight, Slane added: “I don’t think that there’s any panellist sitting here that would not agree this is a race against the illegal operators that are out there right now. They don’t pay taxes, they don’t care about consumers, they have no regulatory oversight or protections.”

Nevada Gaming Control Board chair Becky Harris added: “States do a great job in every area including sports betting and we’ve just begun to see the roll out in other states. Nevada has a comprehensive regulatory structure that has been refined over decades, and we have a lot of integrity in our process.”

Jon Bruning of the Coalition to Stop Online Gaming, which is backed by casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson, also called on Congress to enact legislation to combat a ‘Wild West’ effect in the betting industry.

He also called for the restoration of the 1961 Federal Wire Act, which effectively outlaws online gaming, claiming the authorities have “effectively abandoned” enforcement of the 2011 UIGEA.