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Betting by NFL players after the repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act

This is an excerpt from Business of Sports Betting epub, The by Becky Harris,John T. Holden & Gil B. Fried.

The National Football League (NFL) is the most recent American professional league (that we know of) to see players run afoul of league betting rules. It is interesting that the two most recent cases show how the regulated sports betting world works to prevent threats to integrity. The first incident occurred during the 2019 season, when Arizona Cardinals defensive back Josh Shaw walked into the sportsbook at Caesars in Las Vegas and placed a three-game parlay bet. It was reported that the Arizona Cardinals was among the teams Shaw selected. At the time, Shaw was on injured reserve and therefore was not with the team. The bet was a loser (Purdum, 2019). Although the sportsbook should have immediately identified that Shaw was prohibited from placing wagers, because he listed his occupation as “professional football player,” it was Caesars who a short time later realized the error and notified authorities, including the NFL, that the player was prohibited from placing bets and the company had accepted the bet in violation of policy (Purdum, 2019). Shaw ended up being suspended for the next season for violating the league’s gambling policy (Brandt, 2019). Shaw was eligible for reinstatement on February 15, 2021. The NFL officially reinstated him in late March of that year (Breech, 2021), though he went unsigned in the NFL and eventually signed with Birmingham in the restarted United States Football League.

The Shaw incident apparently was not a deterrent to other NFL players. Two years later, another incident occurred involving Atlanta Falcons star receiver Calvin Ridley, who at the time of the incident was on the injured reserve list. According to reports, Ridley signed up for a sportsbook account with a Florida-based provider under another person’s name. The bets being placed from the account included parlay bets on NFL games and wagers on NBA games. The access patterns of the account tipped off the sportsbook operator, who notified the NFL, which investigated further. Again, similar to the Shaw case, the infrastructure of the regulated sportsbook worked to identify a person not permitted to bet, and the proper authorities were notified promptly (Allen, 2022). Ridley was suspended for the entirety of the following season (Rothstein, 2022). During his suspension, Ridley was traded to the Jacksonville Jaguars. He was cleared to begin participating in team activities in early March 2023 (Patra, 2023).

No major American sport has been immune from sports betting scandals, and American sports are certainly not alone in having scandals related to betting and corruption. A common myth is that sports at the highest levels cannot be corrupted because the players make too much money. That thinking represents a fundamental misunderstanding of all the factors that lead to the corruption of sports. Individuals have many different motivations for breaking league rules, and although money is often one of the cited rationales, in the scandals described in this chapter there are a variety of reasons individuals might break league rules. In the case of Calvin Ridley, who allegedly bet $1,500, his decision ultimately cost him more than $11 million in forfeited salary (Florio, 2022). The following section digs deeper into the motivations and environments that can lead to athletes breaking league rules and, in some instances, the law.

More Excerpts From Business of Sports Betting epub