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Goodell explains why NFL has no issues with daily fantasy

The shadow of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is cast on a backdrop as he speaks during a news conference at the conclusion of the league’s fall meetings Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015, in New York. Goodell said that he expects NFL owners will vote on franchise relocation to Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)


The NFL consistently fights any effort to expand gambling on its games. The NFL has no qualms whatsoever about gambling on its players.

The easy explanation is that it’s not gambling, because Congress decided in 2006 that it’s not gambling. But since most people realize that, regardless of the name, it really is gambling, the NFL has now tried to cobble together an explanation more nuanced than, “Congress says it’s not gambling.”

"[I]t’s hard to see the influence that it could have on the outcome of a game because individual players are picking different players from different teams, mashing them up, you might call it,” Goodell told reporters on Wednesday. "[I]t’s not based on the outcome of a game, which is what our biggest concern is with sports betting.”

So, basically, when the thing that is the subject of the wager is sufficiently blended and absorbed within the structure of the league’s games so as not to hinge on the outcome of a given game, wagering is fine.

Which means that the NFL should now have no problem with any of the various prop bets that are unrelated to the outcome of a game -- including the very popular betting on the total points scored in a game, also known as the “over-under.” If the individual points scored by a given player don’t matter to the outcome, the total points scored by both teams don’t matter, either. All that matters is who wins the game and by how many points.

The broader point here is that the NFL has opened Pandora’s Box by embracing daily fantasy. With one seemingly innocuous response from Goodell on Wednesday, the league’s arguments against most other forms of wagering based on football games instantly have been gutted. The only legitimate barrier that remains is wagering on the winner of the game, with application of the point spread.

But even that argument isn’t very legitimate, since betting against the spread is as much as a game of skill as playing daily fantasy.