The NFL suspended five players in April for violating the league’s gambling policy, and they’re currently investigating more individuals in a potential second wave of violations.
The NFL has a tight relationship with the gambling industry. They have three official sports betting partners with DraftKings, Fan Duel, and Caesars. Media partners are permitted to run six sports-betting advertisements during a broadcast of an NFL game.
Two NFL teams – the Washington Commanders and Arizona Cardinals – have sports books operating in their stadium during the upcoming season. The league recently voted to allow in-stadium sportsbooks to remain open on game days. Additional teams are also considering an on-site sports book.
The NFL allows its players and employees to participate in sports betting and gamble on non-NFL games. They have a strict and clear-cut no tolerance policy when it involves betting on NFL games. The NFL seeks to maintain its integrity during a sports-betting boom, while the league and NFL teams have ongoing partnerships with gaming companies.
Simple Rule: Don’t Bet on NFL Games
The NFL has a straight-forward policy. They do not want anyone affiliated with the league or teams to bet on NFL games. The also do not want players to make any wagers while in the locker room. If players want to place mobile bets, they should do so at home or any place that’s not affiliated with the team, or while traveling with the team.
Yet, despite the basic rules, five players were flagged for violations. Those five players were issued suspensions for either wagering on NFL games or placing sports bets within NFL facilities.
Two members of the Detroit Lions — Quintez Cephus and C.J. Moore — and Shaka Toney from the Washington Commanders were suspended for betting on NFL games. All three players are no longer with their teams.
Stanley Berryhill and Jameson Williams, a pair of wide receivers from the Lions, were suspended for six games. They did not wager on any NFL games, but placed sports bets while inside the Lions practice facility.
In 2019, John Shaw from the Arizona Cardinals was the first player to earn a suspension for violating the NFL’s gambling policy. Shaw bet on games when he was on the IR. In 2022, Calvin Ridley from the Atlanta Falcons was suspended for betting on games while he was on the IR. Ridley was reinstated this season, and currently a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
All NFL Employees Monitored
It doesn’t matter if you’re a team owner or a security guard, because the NFL treats all employees the same when it comes to sports betting. No one is allowed to wager on NFL games. Zero exceptions. This includes any employees that work for the NFL directly, or anyone employed by a team. The extensive no-betting list also covers trainers, secretaries, and even stadium workers.
The NFL does not consider fantasy football as gambling, but players cannot win a prize that’s more than $250. The league also as a strict policy that prohibits daily fantasy sports.
These prohibitions are intended to avoid any appearance of impropriety which may result from participation in fantasy football games by an individual perceived to have an unfair advantage due to the preferential access to information,” according to the NFL gambling policy that was last updated in 2022.
Prior to the PASPA decision in 2018, NFL players were prohibited from patriating in any form of sports gambling. That meant prior to 2018, an active player could not visit Las Vegas and place a bet on a March Madness game, or bet on the NBA playoffs.
After the PASPA decision, the NFLPA lobbied the NFL to amend its gambling policy to allow its players to patriciate in sports betting so long it’s not an NFL game.
Flagged by Third-Party Geolocation Services
Many gaming companies utilize a third-party company that handles geolocating their customers. This ensures that would-be gamblers are in the state where they want to bet legally, and not betting in a prohibited jurisdiction.
David Highhill is a vice president and general manager at the NFL. He’s in charge of overseeing sports betting for the league.
Our monitoring efforts include internal measures, along with resources and services provided by our partners to ensure we have the most comprehensive information possible,” Highhill told ESPN.
Third-party companies share data with the NFL. It’s how the NFL discovered that Berryhill and Williams made bets inside a training facility.
Gaming companies provide betting history so the NFL can determine if bets were on college sports, or other pro sports like the NBA. That shared data proved Berrhyill and Williams did not bet on NFL games, but were instead flagged for placing bets in a prohibited team facility.
Genius Sports, U.S. Integrity, and Sportradar track bets by coaches and team employees. The NFL provides a list of individuals to track, and U.S. Integrity shares the list with gaming companies and sports books. If someone from that list makes a bet on any platform, they’ll get instantly flagged and reported to the NFL.
In December of 2022, the New York Jets suspended wide receivers coach Miles Austin for gambling on table games and wagering on the NBA.
The NFL has not revealed how many employees have violated the league’s gambling policy.
Deterrence Policy Not Perfect
The current technology and accessibility to gaming apps makes it easier for the NFL to keep tabs on its players and employees.
NFL players can figure out ways to bet on games. They could take an old-school route and bet with a local bookie, or ask a friend to place bets on an app for them, or use an offshore and unregulated online sports book. These alternative methods are another obstacle for the NFL in their attempt to monitor or investigate any gambling impropriety.
The NFL stated that none of their suspended players — the five in April plus Ridley and Shaw in previous season — impacted any games.
We have seen no evidence of game manipulation to date,” Highhill told ESPN.
Even though there’s been an uptick in violations, and another wave pending, the NFL is not aware of any point shaving or other shenanigans like what happened in college basketball betting scandals involving CCNY or Boston College. The NFL maintains that the integrity of their games have not been compromised.
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