The Supreme Court’s 2018 ruling in Murphy vs. NCAA ushered in a new era of legalized sports betting in the U.S., allowing states to establish their own sports wagering laws.
Despite opposition from the major sports leagues, the high court overturned a federal law – the 1992 Professional Amateur Sports Protection Act – that had barred betting on football, basketball, baseball and other sports in most states.
With the ruling came a new approach to how the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL associate with the industry.
Each league prohibits its employees and players from betting on their own games. But there are variations.
Here’s a look at how the leagues operate:
IS ANY FORM OF GAMBLING BY PLAYERS PERMITTED BY THE LEAGUES?
Yes, but with caveats.
In the preamble of its 2018 gambling policy the NFL states, “Gambling, particularly on NFL games or other sports, presents potential risks to the integrity of our competition and can negatively impact team cohesion.”
But that same policy goes on to outline that, “All NFL Personnel other than Players are further prohibited from placing, soliciting, or facilitating bets on any other professional (e.g., NBA, MLB, NHL, PGA, USTA, MLS), college (e.g., NCAA basketball), international (e.g., World Baseball Classic, World Cup), or Olympic sports competition, tournament or event.”
NFL players and personnel are not allowed to engage in gambling in NFL facilities, disclose any nonpublic NFL information, enter a sportsbook during the NFL season, or maintain any social, business or personal relationships with sports gamblers.
But they can place non-sports wagers at legally operated casinos and horse or dog racing tracks on their personal time, including during the season.
The NBA constitution doesn’t expressly forbid players from betting on other sports.
According to Major League Baseball’s 2019 policy on sports betting, “Baseball personnel may place legal bets on sports other than baseball or softball in jurisdictions in which sports betting is legal, provided that the person placing the bet is eligible under applicable law to place the wager.”
The NHL only prohibits players from gambling on league games.
WHAT ARE THE PUNISHMENTS FOR VIOLATORS OF LEAGUE GAMBLING RULES?
Anyone associated with MLB found to have violated its Rule 21, which prohibits bets placed on baseball games that don’t involve their teams, faces fines and a yearlong suspension. A permanent ban — like the one infamously given to Pete Rose — is imposed on anyone associated with the league who bets on a game they are involved in.
A person also could face penalties for failing to report any attempted gambling rule violations, including attempts by anyone who tries to solicit them to manipulate or fix a game.
The NBA’s constitution and bylaws give broad authority to the league commissioner to punish any player who “directly or indirectly, wagers money or anything of value on the outcome of any game played by a team in the league operated by the Association.” After the accused has had a chance to answer the charges, “the decision of the Commissioner shall be final, binding and conclusive and unappealable.”
The penalties could include a fine, suspension, expulsion and/or perpetual disqualification from further association with the NBA.
In its most recent collective bargaining agreement, the NHL only mentions gambling once, saying, “Gambling on any NHL Game is prohibited.” That same document also empowers the commissioner to discipline players for off-ice conduct. Potential penalties for those violations include fines, suspension, expulsion or cancellation of the player’s contract.
The NFL outlines in its gambling policy that the commissioner or his designee will decide violations of policy “on a case-by-case basis.” Violations deemed detrimental to the league could also subject the involved team or person to penalties including fines, termination of employment or banishment from the NFL for life.
HAVE ANY ATHLETES BEEN DISCIPLINED SINCE THE 2018 SUPREME COURT DECISION?
Yes, and the list is growing.
Detroit Lions wide receiver Quintez Cephus, Lions safety C.J. Moore and Washington Commanders defensive end Shaka Toney are sidelined for the entire 2023 season for placing bets on NFL games. Lions wide receivers Stanley Berryhill and Jameson Williams each received six-game suspensions for wagering on non-NFL games in NFL-operated facilities.
In December, New York Jets receivers coach Miles Austin was suspended for a year for betting on non-NFL sports.
Wide receiver Calvin Ridley was suspended for the entire 2022 season for gambling on NFL games; he was later traded from Atlanta to Jacksonville and was reinstated. In November 2019, Arizona Cardinals cornerback Josh Shaw was suspended for gambling on an NFL game; he has not played in the league since.
WHAT PARTNERSHIPS DO THE LEAGUES HAVE WITH GAMBLING COMPANIES?
Each of the four major North America sports leagues has partnerships with technology companies and sportsbooks which allow them to use official league data in their betting products as well as use the leagues’ various logos and branding in advertisements.
NHL and MLB players are also now allowed to enter ambassador roles with gambling companies, with restrictions limiting agreements to the players engaging in promotional or marketing appearances for the brands.
Edmonton Oilers star Connor McDavid became the first player to sign such a pact in 2022 and appeared in an advertisement for BetGM alongside hockey legend Wayne Gretzky.
Charlie Blackmon of the Colorado Rockies signed a similar deal with MaximBet last year, but the company has since gone defunct.
The NBA Players Association allows players’ images and likenesses to appear in sportsbook advertising.
NFL personnel are prohibited from using or allowing others to use their name or image directly “to promote, advertise, or publicize gambling-related enterprises” or “making personal, promotional appearances on behalf of any entity in a casino gaming area or sportsbook.”
DO PLAYERS RECEIVE MONEY FROM THE LEAGUES’ ASSOCIATIONS WITH GAMBLING?
In an open letter on Oct. 27, 2021, NFL Players Association President JC Tretter defined the revenues players are entitled to under the 2020 Collective Bargaining Agreement, saying they included all television deals, ticket sales, concessions, league sponsorships, local media deals and “yes, even gambling revenues are included as part of our share of revenue.” Under CBA terms, players receive a minimum of 48% of all league revenue.
Prior to the NBA Players Association’s recent agreement with the NBA on a new collective bargaining agreement, players were entitled to a 50-50 split in revenue. But that excluded revenues from gambling on NBA games or those generated by casinos or gambling businesses.
It’s unclear how or if those terms will change in the new pact agreed to in April.
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