The NFL is updating its gambling policy — meaning tougher penalties for repeat offenders and players who wager on their games — to keep pace with the expansion of legal sports betting and after a rash of incidents and discipline earlier this year.
NFL insiders started breaking the news of the update on Friday, sharing screenshots of a memo outlining the tweaks to the rules for players using sports betting sites.
Several "baseline suspensions, with possible upward or downward adjustments" are outlined in the memo. They include suspensions of at least one year for betting on NFL football and two years if a player wagers on a game involving their team.
Any attempted or actual match-fixing will result in permanent banishment from the NFL, the policy states, and sharing of inside information will get players a one-year ban at minimum. Using third parties and proxies for wagering will also result in a one-year ban at the least.
“The NFL and NFL Players Association share a longstanding and unwavering commitment to protecting the integrity of the game,” the two entities said in a joint statement. “The NFL periodically reviews the gambling policy in consultation with the NFLPA and clubs to ensure it is responsive to changing circumstances and fully addresses this commitment.”
Here’s the key portion of today’s memo, outlining the discipline for violating the gambling policy — including permanent banishment for actual or attempted game-fixing, and indefinite suspensions for betting on NFL football. pic.twitter.com/gP6oJeElv6— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) September 29, 2023
Also included in the updated policy is a graduating set of penalties for betting on non-NFL sports and other events in the workplace. For a first violation, the penalty is now a two-game suspension without pay. Second and third violations of that rule will result in a six-game unpaid suspension and a yearlong unpaid ban, respectively.
The update apparently takes effect soon, as NFL insiders reported that suspended Tennessee Titans offensive lineman Nicholas Petit-Frere and Detroit Lions wide receiver Jameson Williams will be reinstated as of Monday. Both players were handed six-game suspensions earlier this year for betting on non-NFL games at a team facility.
Friday's news dump is another sign of the evolving attitude toward sports betting by the NFL. The league once opposed expanding legal sports wagering in the U.S., but now it and its teams are partners with sportsbook operators that players can access in the palm of their hand from almost anywhere.
That access contributed to a burst of gambling-related discipline earlier this year. Now, though, the updated gambling policy provides flexibility while also stressing that the integrity of games is of the utmost importance.
“It's pretty simple,” Roger Goodell told NBC Sports before a Thursday night football game earlier this month. “If you bet on the NFL and you're a part of the NFL, you've got a problem.”
As a result of gambling policy changes, Titans’ OT Nick Petit-Frere and Lions’ WR Jameson Williams will be reinstated effective on Monday. They each had served four game suspensions for violations of the league’s gambling policy.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 29, 2023
The updated policy says the commissioner or a designee will weigh violations on a "case-by-case basis," and consider all the "relevant facts and circumstances."
Among other things, the type of bets a player may place and whether they have violated the gambling policy before will factor into the punishment. So, too, will a player self-reporting any incidents, which could help lighten their sentence.
However, when it comes to any conduct that could undermine or even appear to undermine the game, the punishment could be harsh.
"It's one of the reasons we opposed legalized sports betting, because of the risk to the integrity of the game,” Goodell said earlier this month. “And so that's always going to be our number one priority.”