NFL referees are finally going back to work and not a moment too soon, unless you are a Seattle fan. The NFL’s decision to use replacement officials is not the only thing that has come under fire in recent weeks. Their anti-gambling policy was also questioned earlier this year when a potential replacement official had a history of playing professional poker.
As many of you are probably aware, the league bans their players and executives from gambling in any form. Their reasoning behind this is that their players could be susceptible to influence from bookies or others should player rack up gambling debts.
While that policy may seem a bit extreme, remember that not all players in the National Football League have the same lucrative contracts like your Aaron Rogers or Michael Vick. They could be influenced should they somehow get into debt. Influencing a player does not necessarily mean getting that player to throw a game. They could drop a pass, or miss a tackle that could affect the spread, and doing so could save or make underhanded oddsmakers a lot of money.
About the only type of “gambling activity” that they tend to allow are charity poker tournaments. For the last couple of years, several NFL players have been tied to these types of events, including Charlie Batch of the Pittsburgh Steelers. He uses poker as part of his Best of the Best charity event.
With that said, the NFL still bans players from playing in events held inside of casinos. There was a charity event last year in Las Vegas at the Golden Nugget and NFL players were supposed to attend, but the NFL banned their participation due to gambling concerns. For those of you about to point out that Jerome Bettis played at the WSOP, he had already retired from football and the league could no longer ban his participation.
The NFL put their gambling policy in for a reason and it is not to impose their will on their players or executives. Their purpose is to make sure that the games stay fair and honest. You saw the firestorm they have come under this season due to replacement referees. Just imagine what would happen should the integrity of their games come into question based on a gambling scandal. That is something that they hope to avoid with such a restrictive betting policy.