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Players Unions at Sports Gambling Table

With sports gambling legalization and expansion into Vegas market, Players Unions are getting into the game

Kate Hogan's picture
by Kate Hogan on
Jun 12, 2017

With a few exceptions, betting on sports is illegal in the United States. In the near future, this may not be the case anymore. The tides of change may be headed in a new direction, one where your Sweet 16 bracket might actually make you good money. As sports gambling looks like it is going to become a case of when, not if, union representatives are stepping up to protect their members.

The heads of the players’ unions of the four major U.S. sports, football, baseball, basketball, and hockey, have held several meetings to begin preparing for the nationwide legalization of sports gambling. The NFLPA’s DeMaurice Smith, the MLBPA’s Tony Clark, the NBPA’s Michele Roberts, and the NHLPA’s Donald Fehr have spent the last year and a half discussing the impact that legalized sports gambling could have on their respective games. For decades, these unions have been opposed to this move. However, since this move towards legalized gambling seems to be happening within the next five years, the unions have joined together to get ahead of the issue.

One of their biggest concerns is ensuring the fans that betting won’t corrupt the game itself. National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) executive George Atallah stated , “For us, it’s about getting the right infrastructure in place. Before we get to the revenue splits, how do you monitor behavior like they do in other parts of the world to ensure what we’re watching isn’t fixed? That’s the question.”


The unions have been looking at how other parts of the world have been handling sports gambling in trying to decide the best move for the United States. Overseas, sports gambling has been legal for a few decades now. While many have seen bribes that outshine the small salaries of high profile athletes in smaller leagues, players in the United States make too much money for that to cause too much of a problem here. They are also keeping a close eye on legislation happening in New Jersey, which has been a primary battleground for legalized sports gambling.

Nevada is the lone state where it's legal to gamble on an individual game, but until this year there were no professional teams in Sin City. However, that is now changing. The NFL’s Raiders will move from Oakland into a brand new stadium in Vegas as soon as 2020. The NHL has their expansion Golden Knights beginning play this fall. The NBA hosted an All-Star Game there in 2007 and commissioner Adam Silver has even come out as an advocate of legalized sports gambling.

While there may be some fixed matches and crooked bets, many believe that the switch to legalized sports gambling is going to be a good thing. These sport unions are meeting now to make sure that they take care of their players, whether this becomes legal or not.

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