LAS VEGAS, Feb. 6 (UPI) -- NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who raised previous concerns about gambling's influence on games, defended the league's integrity ahead of the first Super Bowl held in Las Vegas. The game is expected to draw record bets.
Goodell made the comments at his annual Super Bowl week news conference Monday at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.
"We want to make sure it doesn't harm the game and that people, when they are watching an NFL game, know the action on the field is genuine and without any outside influence," Goodell told reporters.
On Tuesday, the American Gaming Association released a survey saying that a record 68 million American adults, or (26%, are expected to bet on Super Bowl LVIII. Those bettors are projected to wager an estimated $23.1 billion, compared to $16 billion in 2023 -- a 35% increase.
Goodell issued a memo last week to NFL teams, reminding them that employees are barred from betting on sports or entering sportsbooks in the Super Bowl's host city.
The NFL commissioner, hired in 2006, previously voiced concern about a link between gambling and the 32-team league. He said in a 2012 deposition that he considered gambling a threat to the integrity of professional football and that, at that time, the NFL wasn't considering a Las Vegas franchise.
"It creates more gambling, it creates more gamblers and it creates the more likelihood that people are going to perceive it as being an influence," Goodell said when asked in 2012 about legalized sports gambling.
Much has changed since then, signaling the league's willingness to embrace sports gambling. In 2017, the NFL approved the Oakland Raiders' move to Las Vegas. In 2021, the NFL agreed to business partnerships with three sportsbooks. Later that year, the league awarded Super Bowl LVIII to Las Vegas.
The 2023 NFL Draft was held in the same city.
"We're in this now -- we're in this business," NFL senior vice president of social responsibility Anna Isaacson said in an article published Sunday in The New York Times.
"What can we do to make sure that we're not causing undue additional harm?"
League and team personnel are forbidden from gambling on any sport, while players are allowed to wager on sports outside of the NFL if they aren't doing so at team facilities or while participating in league or team business.
"We are the only league to do our own spots [advertisements] on responsible gambling to make sure our fans understand the dangers of irresponsible gambling," Goodell said Monday.
"One of the things we've worked with our partners, particularly in the gambling space, is how can they help educate us and our fans? How can they give us information that will allow us to make sure we are treating our fans properly and giving them the opportunities to engage safely and responsibly, but also protect our game."
Ten NFL players were penalized for violating the league's gambling policy in 2023-24.
Goodell said that the number of league and team employees who violated the policy is more than two dozen, and that if they bet on the NFL, they were "terminated automatically."
Legalized sports gambling continues to swell state-by-state in the United States. Alabama, Alaska, California, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, South Carolina, Texas and Utah are the only states in which sports gambling remains illegal.
Many fans this week will be wagering on games at casinos and through smartphone apps. The American Gaming Association estimates that 42.7 million American adults will place a sports wager online, at a retail sportsbook or with a bookie -- up 41% from last year. Another 36.5 million American adults plan to bet with friends or in a squares contest -- up 32% from 2023.
"As the Super Bowl comes to Las Vegas for the first time, this year's record interest in wagering marks a full circle moment for the U.S. gaming industry," American Gaming Association president Bill Miller said in a news release.
More than $300 billion has been wagered through American sportsbooks since 2018, when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal law that prohibited sports gambling.