When the US Supreme Court handed down its verdict to certain federal lawmakers and sports leagues in 2018, it emphatically told them they were wrong for putting PASPA on the books. The NFL had initially banded with its fellow leagues in getting the anti-sports betting bill pushed through 26 years earlier, but, perhaps, only out of obligatory peer pressure. The league has been more supportive of sports betting and, since PASPA died in 2018, has made a number of deals to embrace the activity. It also understands the importance of ensuring bettors are protected from going too far, and has now announced a significant capital injection into responsible gambling programs throughout the US.
NFL Backs Responsible Gambling
The NFL announced this week that it will spend $6.2 million to support and build responsible gambling initiatives. In conjunction with the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG), it will introduce improvements to the latter’s existing programs, as well as develop new treatment alternatives. The league will also launch education initiatives to teach bettors about how to bet responsibly and limit how much they spend to keep them from getting carried away.
In announcing the new initiatives, NFL Executive VP Christopher Halpin explained, “Sports betting is supposed to be fun. We feel it is critical that the NFL uses the power of our voice to educate and encourage fans who choose to gamble to do so in a safe and responsible way. We also recognize that responsible betting programs across the country are under-resourced, especially as legalization spreads nationwide.”
The NFL is going to work with its official sports betting partners, including Caesars Entertainment, DraftKings and FanDuel, to drum up additional support. All regulated sportsbooks in the US, as well as in other countries, already have existing responsible gambling programs, and partnering with the NFL will further those efforts. NCPG Executive Director Keith Whyte adds that similar solutions are being discussed with other leagues, such as the NBA, MLB and more.
Sports Betting Gaining Traction; Problem Betting Remains Low
Whyte, who wants the NFL to “set an example for the other professional sports leagues,” acknowledges that sports betting is on the rise, which is supported by previous data that shows an increase in the number of wagers being placed. For example, the American Gaming Association reported in September that 45.2 million Americans were going to place a bet on an NFL game this season, representing a 36% increase over last year’s figure.
However, despite the increase, the number of individuals defined as having a gambling problem isn’t increasing at the same pace. Whyte points out that only 2% of the US population has a gambling problem – much lower than the 12% of the population addicted to prescription drugs – and, of the gambling population, only 5% have a problem, slightly less than the rate of alcohol addiction (6%). According to statistics presented by the Addiction Center website, alcohol and drug addiction cost the US economy more than $600 billion every year.
However, in order to prevent problem gambling from becoming a real issue, sports leagues and sports betting operators want to be proactive. The NFL is setting the stage with its new initiative, and Halpin adds, “For the casual bettor, now is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to teach them what responsible betting looks like: mindfulness, setting betting budgets, knowing your operator, knowing how parlays and other kinds of bets work. We intend to get this right.”