The National Football League (NFL) has changed course on its often-criticized policy regarding player punishments for gambling infractions, toughening penalties on players found to bet on their own team while softening those for wagering on other sports.
The league sent a memo to teams outlining the amended policy on Friday (September 29) and announced that several players who were suspended under the old policy would be reinstated ahead of schedule.
Under the previous policy, players were suspended for at least one year if they were found to have bet on NFL games, and six games if they were found to have wagered while working, either by placing a bet while inside a team facility or while they were traveling to a road game.
After Friday’s changes, the minimum one-year suspension remains in place for players found to have bet on NFL games but increases to a minimum two-year ban for players who bet on their own NFL team.
The policy also specifies that players who are found to have fixed games or attempted to fix a game will be permanently banned from the league, while players who either provide inside information or tips will receive a minimum one-year suspension, as will players found to have used third parties or proxies to place bets.
On the other hand, players who are found to have bet “while working” will only receive a two-game suspension for their first offense, increasing to a six-game suspension for a second violation and a full year for a third violation.
The NFL has suspended a total of ten players for gambling violations so far in 2023, more than double the amount of gambling suspensions that had been doled out in the league’s entire history prior to this year.
Some players had voiced concerns that the rules were too confusing or not adequately explained by the NFL in a climate where sports betting is legal in 36 states and the league has multiple partnerships with U.S. sportsbooks.
“In recent weeks, we have consulted with many of you and with the NFL Players Association to ensure that our policies are clear, properly communicated, and focused on protecting the integrity of the game and the reputations of everyone connected with the NFL,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell wrote in the memo issued to teams.
“The revised gambling policy that we are issuing today provides that clarity and focus and gives clear guidance to players about the consequences of violating the policy,” Goodell wrote.
Detroit Lions receiver Jameson Williams and Tennessee Titans offensive lineman Nicholas Petit-Frere, who both received six-game suspensions before the season, had their suspensions shortened and will be eligible to return to their teams as soon as Monday (October 2).
“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.”
Another critic of the existing policy was Nevada Democratic Representative Dina Titus, co-chair of the Congressional Gaming Caucus.
Titus had written to the NFL in June asking for the league to clarify its gaming policy and said Friday that the league had taken “a step in the right direction toward transparency on sports betting.”
“Clear, consistent, and appropriate penalties assure fans that the games they choose to bet on are fair,” Titus said in a statement. “That's why I called the NFL out for a lack of clarity in their policies earlier this year, as players did not understand what conduct was permissible under league rules.
“I'm glad that the NFL created a distinction between behavior that threatens the integrity of the game and legal wagering on other sports,” she added.
“Penalties for game fixing and betting on one’s own league should be more serious than betting on other sports. Every sports league should remain focused on protecting the product on the field.”