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NFL Updates Gambling Policy; NCAA to Follow?

The NFL revised its gambling policy last week to include harsher punishment for players caught betting on games involving their own teams. The NCAA also announced that it will consider updating its policy. The NFL’s changes and the NCAA’s proposed updates signal a more lenient disciplinary approach for athletes engaged in betting on sporting events not involving their own teams.

NFL Gambling Policy Changes

Under the new NFL policy, bets placed by players on NFL games will result in a one-year suspension at minimum while the punishment for a player betting on his own team will increase to at least a two-year suspension.

The NFL has reduced the length of suspension, however, for bets placed on non-NFL sporting events while in the workplace or on team-related travel. Under the revised policy, the NFL will impose a suspension of two games for a first violation, six games for a second violation, and at least one year for a third violation. Prior to the policy change, the punishment for betting on a non-NFL sporting event, even as a first offense, was at least a six-game suspension.

The effects of the updated policy will be felt immediately for some teams around the league. For example, Detroit Lions wide receiver Jameson Williams and Tennessee Titans offensive tackle Nick Petit-Frere each received a six-game suspension this offseason for gambling on non-NFL games while at a team facility. In light of the new policy, the NFL agreed that both players may return to practice this week after missing only four games.

Though these changes come as a win for the NFLPA, expect the Players Association to pursue more significant changes to the League’s gambling policy, including the removal of the provisions prohibiting gambling while at a team facility.

NCAA to Consider Revising Its Student-Athlete Gambling Policy

On the heels of the NFL’s policy changes, the NCAA directed two committees to examine penalties for student-athletes caught betting on games not involving their own teams. The committees will consider the following changes:

● On a first offense, eliminate penalties that result in student-athletes being withheld from competition — regardless of the dollar value of the wagers and including bets placed on other sports at a student-athlete's school — and require education on sports wagering rules and prevention.

● On a second offense, potentially involve withholding penalties, depending on the dollar value of the bet(s) in question.

● On a third or subsequent offense, the resulting penalty could be a loss of one full season of eligibility.

Like the NFL’s changes, the concepts under consideration by the NCAA offer more leniency for first-time violations with escalating punishment for repeat offenders. The NCAA suggested that the new guidelines, which they expect to be voted on at the end of October, could be applied retroactively. These changes come amid a broader push by the NCAA to encourage state legislatures to update sports betting laws to protect student-athletes from harassment or coercion.

Alec McNiff (@Alec_McNiff) is currently completing a federal district court clerkship after spending a year as a litigation associate at a major law firm. Alec earned his J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School and holds a business degree from the University of Southern California.

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