Updated August 4, 2023 - 6:47 pm
A Nevada lawmaker chastised the NFL for a “disappointing” response to her letter asking about efforts to ensure the integrity of games amid a series of sports betting violations involving players.
U.S. Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., wrote June 15 to the leadership of the major professional sports leagues and the NCAA, asking them to clarify their betting policies and saying “more needs to be done to ensure that sports remain free from outside influence.”
The NFL offered a detailed response but did not address specific questions about league personnel and investigations into betting violations. The NFL’s response also urged federal officials to address the “illicit sports betting market,” though the reported violations involving players happened at regulated sportsbooks.
Titus deemed the response insufficient.
“It’s very disappointing that the NFL has declined to answer our questions and instead pivoted to illegal sports betting generally in their response,” she said in a statement. “It makes one wonder what they are trying to hide.”
An NFL spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.
In the league’s response to Titus’ letter, obtained by the Review-Journal, Jonathan Nabavi, the NFL vice president of public policy and government affairs, said “there is no higher principle at the NFL than safeguarding the integrity of the game.”
He detailed league rules regarding betting, including that players should not bet on NFL games and should not disclose “inside information” about the team not known to the public.
Titus’ letter came after several college and pro players were disciplined for infractions related to betting. Over the past two years, 11 NFL players have been suspended for gambling violations.
This week, criminal charges were filed against seven current or former Iowa and Iowa State college athletes who are accused of tampering with records related to an investigation after they were discovered to have bet on games involving their schools and in some cases their teams. The Iowa Racing and Gambling Commission later said there was no evidence that the integrity of any game was compromised.
In her letter, Titus acknowledged the work sportsbooks and integrity monitors have done to identify suspicious bets.
“When players get suspended and coaches get fired, that means the system is working,” Titus said in the letter. “The goal, however, should be to stop these bets before they are placed.”
In an interview Friday, Titus said she is focused on gathering information from the leagues about how they handle betting. She wants to figure out the best practices, “who’s doing what and how we can all do it better,” she said.
Las Vegas has always maintained high integrity when it comes to gaming and betting, Titus said. With Las Vegas being seen more and more as a sports town, it becomes more important to understand what the rules are, how they are enforced and what the penalties are when a rule is broken, she said.
She wants to ensure that viewers and bettors know games are fair, or else “that’s gonna have a big impact on the economy nationwide but certainly in Nevada,” Titus said.
Westgate SuperBook vice president Jay Kornegay said that as a sportsbook operator, “We have always been on the same side as the leagues, NCAA and regulators.
“Integrity is our product. If we don’t have it, we have nothing,” he said. “We work with many others to protect the games. The cases we’re seeing aren’t surprising as sports betting expands. … The severity of the punishment will also send a stiff message to the players.”
Matthew Holt, the co-founder and CEO of U.S. Integrity, an independent sports wagering monitor based in Henderson, said continued cooperation between the leagues and the betting industry is the key “if we are to advance our methods to catch the most sophisticated bad actors.”
Sports betting has expanded to 34 states and Washington, D.C., since a 2018 Supreme Court ruling struck down the federal ban on betting. Until then, Nevada was the only state offering full-fledged sportsbooks.
Though Titus criticized the NFL for bringing up offshore sportsbooks who operate illegally in the U.S., she supports a crackdown on those entities. Titus was the co-author of a letter last year to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland that asked the Department of Justice to target offshore books.
Contact Jim Barnes at email@example.com or 702-383-0277. Follow @JimBarnesLV on Twitter. Contact Jessica Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @jess_hillyeah on Twitter. Review-Journal reporter Todd Dewey and The Associated Press contributed to this story.