Over the years, the NFL has generally tried to keep itself removed from gambling in any official connection. I think most of us recognize that is a bit of a joke. The NFL has become incredibly popular for a variety of reasons, and gambling is a prominent one. Although most NFL gambling comes from illegal means, a few states have the right to engage in sports betting. Nevada is the most prominent state to allow sports betting, but Montana, Oregon and Delaware are allowed to do so on different levels.
Now, California is trying to get in on the action. A State Senator has introduced legislation in the form of Senate Bill 190, which would legalize sports betting in the state. This marks the second straight year such a bill has been introduced in the state. This new bill would include a tax on gross revenues attributable to a sports book. It would also prevent betting on collegiate athletic events in California or collegiate athletic events that involve academic institutions based in California.
Even if the bill passes, there is a significant road block on the federal level. The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA) prevents states from engaging in sports betting, and only allowed for exceptions to states that met certain pre-existing requirements.
The state of New Jersey introduced their own bill last year to legalize sports betting. That bill passed and is now being challenged in court by the various sports leagues. There is a hearing on February 14 to address the constitutionality of PASPA. If the law is deemed unconstitutional, it opens the door for other states to introduce sports betting laws. I would be surprised if the law was deemed unconstitutional, but it will be something to follow in the coming days.
It would make all the sense in the world to legalize sports betting across the country. There are always concerns raised about game fixing, much like we're seeing lately with international soccer matches. However, with legalized betting, there would be a greater circle of people tracking the money coming in on particular sporting events. Legalized sports books have a vested interest in matches being on the up and up. If people felt games actually were fixed, why would they bet on them, unless they were in on the fixing?
The NFL and other professional leagues (and the NCAA) try and stick their heads in the same, but they need to acknowledge the reality of the situation at some point. I'm not holding my breath for resolution of this anytime soon, but one can hope!