A rash of gambling-related suspensions hit the NFL this offseason, with the league levying penalties on 10 players. As a result of the sports betting infractions, the organization increased its educational efforts ahead of the 2023 season.
Education about gambling policies isn’t new, but the league has tried to improve the measures, especially for rookies. From videos to in-person training to facility signage, the NFL has tried to spread its gambling policy message before the 2023 season begins Thursday.
The basic rules
The league has six key rules it wants players to follow, which were shared with Sports Handle by an NFL spokesperson:
- Don’t bet on the NFL. This includes games, awards, and other events like the NFL Draft.
- Don’t have someone place a bet for you.
- Don’t gamble while inside a team facility, whether on anything from sports to casino games to card games. This includes a ban on using a mobile sportsbook when traveling for road games or staying at a team hotel.
- Don’t share inside information, such as private injury information.
- Don’t enter a retail sportsbook during the NFL season.
- Don’t play daily fantasy football.
Coaches, staff, and other non-player personnel, meanwhile, are to avoid wagering on any sports at any time.
The prohibition against wagering on NFL games is the rule the league stresses the hardest. The rule stems from the potential integrity issues that come up if players or coaches bet on league games.
Multiple league rules were violated by players last year. Some players, like the Colts’ Isaiah Rodgers and Rashod Berry, were suspended indefinitely for betting on NFL games.
Others, like Detroit Lions wide receiver Jameson Williams and Tennessee Titans defensive lineman Nicholas Petit-Frere, were suspended six games for betting on non-NFL events while inside team facilities.
The educational blueprint
Williams broke the NFL’s policy in his rookie season with the Lions and suggested to the media he overlooked the rule about wagering in a team facility.
“It was something that I wasn’t aware of, but it caught me,” Williams said in May.
Petit-Frere, who was also a rookie in 2022, shared a similar explanation.
“Even after attending a league presentation, I was unaware about the specifics around placing bets from a team facility,” Petit-Frere said in a statement to ESPN.
Rookies in 2023 will have no such excuses.
The NFL mandates that rookies must watch an additional training video from the NFL compliance team. The video focuses on maintaining game integrity by never wagering on NFL games, and it discusses avoiding placing wagers of any kind in a team facility.
Titans’ OT Nicholas Petit-Frere is being suspended six games for violating the NFL’s gambling policy. Petit-Frere is adamant that he did not bet on NFL games. But he is being suspended for betting on other sports at the workplace.
His statement to ESPN: pic.twitter.com/mvXfig5V10
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) June 29, 2023
ESPN conducted an anonymous survey of more than 50 NFL players, which indicated the policy about gambling at team facilities seemed to confuse most players last season.
“Everybody understood not betting on NFL games,” one player said. “But I think a lot of us, even including myself, [were] not aware of not being able to bet on other sports, especially when it came on league time — in team hotels, on the bus. You would think it was just in the facility.”
Gambling policy education is mandatory for all NFL players, and in 2023, the NFL has “strongly encouraged” all teams to have an in-person training presentation given by a member of the NFL’s compliance team. If teams don’t hold in-person training with NFL compliance personnel, then a video is shown to all players and coaches during an in-facility training.
Additionally, NFL teams provide in-person training sessions often led by head coaches. The full gambling policy is included in the league’s player manual, which players are required to sign to acknowledge they’ve received the manual and all policies. Every NFL contract also includes an “integrity of the game” clause.
Each team puts gambling policy signage across the facilities to help reinforce the rules throughout the season and not just during training camp. Agents are also offered gambling policy training, should they want to better understand the rules.
Players also are instructed about the importance of responsible gambling when wagering within NFL rules.
U.S. Integrity, an industry watchdog, holds educational sessions for college athletes and coaches, although it does not yet give educational sessions for NFL teams.
Is the education working?
Whether the increased educational measures work might become clear only after the NFL season, depending on whether news surfaces about player infractions. Before the season kicks off, however, there appear to be positive reviews of the league’s newest educational measures.
Detroit Lions cornerback Jerry Jacobs suggested to the Associated Press that the NFL — or at least the Lions coaching staff — has been clearer about the wagering policies, especially the one preventing wagering from inside the team facility.
“Last year, they didn’t give it to us like that,” Jacobs said. “They just told us we can’t gamble, but they didn’t tell us where.”
The league remains hopeful that the new educational measures will reduce future infractions. At the very least, the NFL wants players and coaches to understand one simple rule: Never bet on the NFL.