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Should NFL be concerned about putting players in Las Vegas?


The NFL’s longstanding opposition to gambling has taken a backseat to the unavailability of public money to build a Raiders stadium in Oakland. But as the potential relocation of the Raiders to Las Vegas moves closer and closer to the fait accompli category, there’s a potential concern that no one has previously raised.

I can’t take credit (or blame) for the idea. It came from Tom Curran of CSN New England during Monday’s edition of PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio. Curran raised a simple question: Should the league be concerned about having players living and working in a city where casinos are everywhere?

The league’s current gambling policy allows players and all other NFL personnel to attend “legally-operated casinos and horse or dog racing tracks” for the purposes of wagering on casino games or races on their own personal time. Absent a change to the policy, this means that Raiders players would be able, when not working, to spend as much time as they want in casinos, wagering as much money as they desire. Which could result in Raiders players losing plenty of money and thus needing money and, in turn, becoming more tempted to, for example, provide inside information to gamblers for money.

And what starts as providing inside information about the true nature and extent of injuries plus other factors that may influence a given player’s or team’s performance could, in theory, become an arrangement that deviates toward the attempted shaving of points or fixing of games.

So if/when the Raiders move to Vegas, the NFL may need to consider a revision to the current gambling rules or, at a minimum, to ensure that players who choose to gamble are doing so responsibly, without any possible impact on the integrity of the game.

There’s a separate reason for taking a careful look at the easy availability of gambling. It quickly could become a distraction for players who otherwise should be spending their personal time studying film or reviewing the playbook or otherwise, you know, not gambling.

So it’s one thing for the league to “evolve” in its approach to gambling. It’s quite another for the league and the Raiders to be comfortable plunking 53 players into a city where it’s easy to plunk down thousands of dollars on a roll of the dice or a spin of the wheel.