The NFL will change a major rule if the ink dries on the Oakland Raiders’ move to Las Vegas.
Believe it or not, the NFL will allow referees and other on-field officials into the Sin City limits.
This change is in stark contrast to the league’s decades-long ban on officials visiting Las Vegas at any point during the season — with the exception of personal emergencies or mandatory meetings for their non-NFL jobs. The NFL has worked to maintain a distance between itself and the world of sports gambling, but with a team potentially rooted in the betting capital of America, the league will have to change things as a matter of practicality.
According to ESPN reports, the ban would be lifted, but it might raise other concerns about the intermingling of NFL referees and officials with high-end bookies.
NFL owners will discuss the Raiders’ move to Las Vegas today.
Stuck in its ways
The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act makes it illegal to operate a sports betting scheme, except in Nevada, Oregon, Delaware, and Montana.
Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue helped push the law in front of a Senate subcommittee in 1991.
“We do not want our games to be used as bait to sell gambling,” Tagliabue said. “We have to make it clear to the athletes, the fans and the public, gambling is not a part of sport, period.”
Times have changed, and betting is everywhere even if it isn’t fully legal. While the NBA’s Adam Silver and members of the New Jersey legislature have publically endorsed some form of legalized gambling to regulate the nearly $400 billion, largely underground industry, NFL commish Roger Goodell continues to lead the charge against it. It’s a stance the league has held for more than 40 years.
In 2015, when Silver expressed interest in the idea of legalized betting, Goodell issued this statement.
“We’ve been very open about our position that we oppose legalized sports gambling. We haven’t changed our position on that, and I don’t anticipate us changing that going forward at all. We think the integrity of the game is the most important thing, and we believe that our current position is the right way to be able to handle that, but on the other hand, if changes happen, we’ll be prepared for those.”
Raiders owner Mark Davis doesn’t seem to mind having his team in Las Vegas, and neither does the Nevada legislature that awarded him more than a billion dollars in taxpayer money for a new stadium.
Other team officials want to spend Monday’s owners’ meeting hashing out the finer details.
“I do think that’s something we’ll discuss,” Green Bay Packers CEO Mark Murphy said, “and [go over] what kind of precautions are going to be taken to ensure that we don’t have a major scandal coming out of having a team in Las Vegas.”
When it comes to the NFL, the owners are the conduits of change. If they have the cash and the desire to make something happen, it’ll happen. Now, it’s up to the league to keep its policies in line with the owners’ wishes – whatever they may be – on this important relocation vote that blurs the line between itself and the spread.