That’s what sports leagues want to avoid. They have argued in court that more sports gambling could lead to more corruption in sports. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wrote to the New Jersey court that the spread of sports betting “threatens to damage irreparably the integrity of, and public confidence in, NFL football.”
Goodell argued that if betting “is freely permitted on sporting events, normal incidents of the game such as bad snaps, dropped passes, turnovers, penalties, and play calling inevitably will fuel speculation, distrust and accusations of point-shaving or game-fixing.”
But Fahrenkopf said: “I’m not sure that argument sells.” He pointed out that “the NFL is involved in fantasy football itself” and said: “The betting is going on. The question is whether it would be better to have it controlled, with law enforcement oversight.”
Fahrenkopf said that his organization does “a lot of polling, and we find that 80 to 85 percent of American people have no problem with gambling. But there’s 15 percent or so that are rock-hard opposed to it, for religious reasons or moral reasons or whatever. Why pick a fight with that segment of our society if you don’t have to?”
Feldman said sports leagues have been consistent in their insistence that sports gambling damages the integrity of their games since the Black Sox scandal, when Chicago White Sox players infamously were tried, but acquitted, after being accused of accepting money from gamblers to fix World Series games in 1919. They were banned from baseball for life.
“So they will take the steps they need to take to continue to try to limit legalized sports gambling,” Feldman said. “Absolutely, the states argue there is hypocrisy there [because sports leagues’ popularity is enhanced by gambling]. If the battle was starting from scratch, that argument might have more impact. But we’re not starting from scratch. We’re starting from a federal statute that says it’s illegal.”
Delaware’s bid for expanded sports betting was thwarted four years ago in the same federal appeals court where the New Jersey case is headed. Some observers wonder whether the New Jersey case ultimately could end up in the U.S. Supreme Court.
“In my view, the only way this goes anywhere is if the Supreme Court finds PASPA to be unconstitutional or if Congress reverses itself and passes a new law,” Fahrenkopf said. “At this point, I don’t see any of that happening.”
Julie Tate contributed to this report.