Roger Goodell addresses integrity of NFL games ahead of Super Bowl in gambling hotbed of Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS — Roger Goodell said it was the NFL’s first, second and third priority.

The league knows suspicion will run rampant about the integrity of Super Bowl LVIII as it kicks off Sunday in the Las Vegas hotbed of gambling.

That’s a risk the NFL is comfortable taking because it’s a risk the league believes it’s adequately addressed.

“It's our No. 1 objective: Gambling and outside of gambling, the integrity of our game is critical,” Goodell said Monday from his annual State of the League address held in the Las Vegas Raiders’ locker room. “And so we spend a lot of time focusing on that: educating, making sure that all of our personnel are aware of our gambling policies in this case or any other policy that can affect the integrity of our game.

“Ultimately, that's our primary job.”

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The league has more strongly enforced and also updated its gambling policies in recent years. Players have slightly more lenient restrictions than NFL staff, due to the influence of the NFL Players Association, but both players and league employees have faced consequences for gambling.

Betting on an NFL game, Goodell said, is grounds for termination for a league office employee. NFL players are suspended one year for betting on the league and two for betting on their team, per the latest policy iteration. The increase in severity of consequences on NFL betting coincides with the relaxing of policies for players betting on non-NFL sports. First-time offenders will receive a two-game suspension without pay, second-time offenders six games and third-time offenders a year at minimum.

Goodell said Monday that he believed 25 league employees had violated the league’s gambling policy, while “roughly 13 players” have faced discipline. He didn’t confirm if the 25 were all terminated or faced varying degrees of consequence.

“We take this incredibly seriously,” Goodell said. “We understand the risk. We did not make the decision. Ultimately the decision was a decision by the Supreme Court: They legalized sports betting. We have to adapt. We have to embrace it. We have been cautious. We have been very thoughtful, I think, in our approach.

“But we know the risk, and protecting the integrity is No. 1.”