The NFL Ups Its Game to Address Gambling Policies

The NFL has issued 10 suspensions of various lengths in the past two years. As the league’s Chief Compliance Officer, Sabrina Perel leads efforts to drive home that the policies are not to be trifled with.

The NFL Ups Its Game to Address Gambling Policies

NFL Chief Compliance Officer Sabrina Perel probably didn’t see her position going off the rails.

As the leader of the NFL’s efforts to educate the approximately 17,000 players, coaches, team personnel and others about the league’s gambling policies, she’s in the middle of an annual pilgrimage of sorts.

Her closing message: “Follow the policy at all times. … because this truly does impact the entire team.”

On June 29, the league suspended four more players for betting violations. Three received at least year-long bans for betting on NFL games and one was given a six-game suspension for wagering on non-NFL games.

So far, 10 players have faced discipline in the past two years. The league will increase efforts if the latest with Perel fails to stem the tide.

“I think we are still going to see some growing pains. I think we’re going to see probably an uptick while these suspensions play out,” Oklahoma State professor John Holden, who holds a Ph.D. in sports law and corruption of sport, told the Associated Press.

The NFL believes blanketing its personnel with information is the best remedy in an era where the association between the league and gambling companies continues to grow.

“To ensure the integrity of the game, we have to double and triple and quadruple down on our education efforts,” NFL Executive Vice President of Public Affairs Jeff Miller told the AP. “And that’s just what we’re doing.”

Holden thinks the suspensions playing out in the NFL are more than a statistical anomaly. He believes there are likely more investigations that will be revealed in the coming months.

“I wouldn’t expect that we’ll see a ton more of guys getting suspended for betting on NFL games. At this point, that message should be getting home,” he said. “The other stuff, betting from the team facility on NBA games or MLB games, college football. … I think it’s probably going to be something that we see every year.”

That carveout that allows players to place wagers on other sports is not collectively bargained for, Miller said, adding that it’s part of discussions with the NFLPA and “has existed for a long time” and not different from what the NBA, MLB and NHL allow.

“The only distinction being the availability of it,” Miller told the AP. “And so, on the area where it governs league personnel or team personnel or coaches or others, it’s a decision that we can make more unilaterally.”

Miller said conversations will be ongoing with the union.

A message left with the NFLPA was not immediately returned and the union has yet to comment publicly since the latest round of suspensions.

At the introductory news conference for new NFLPA Executive Director Lloyd Howell, NFLPA President JC Tretter declined to answer a question regarding what actions the union was planning following the recent rash of gambling policy infractions.

Former NFL quarterback and CBS Sports analyst Boomer Esiason believes players have lost the right to cry ignorance of the rules.

“It’s on the player to be the professional that you’re supposed to be and earn the money that you’re earning and play in a league that you’re privileged to play in, and protect that league’s integrity by not betting on the league,” Esiason told the AP.

As far as the seemingly contradictory league policy that prohibits coaches and other league personnel from wagering on non-NFL sports, Perel said that she didn’t anticipate any changes.

“There’re just so many people who either have inside information or have access to inside information,” she said. “And we just kind of feel like, to have them gambling in any regard, it’s a little counterproductive to what we’re trying to do to make sure that there’s no negative appearance or association of the fact that they might be betting on other sports.”