Why NFL will police gambling among 49ers, Chiefs differently from other players at Super Bowl

Why NFL will police gambling among 49ers, Chiefs differently from other players at Super Bowl

The Super Bowl is set for the gambling capital of the world — that is, unless you’re on the 49ers or Chiefs.

In Las Vegas, the NFL’s gambling restrictions apply to players, coaches and team personnel for both teams playing in the Super Bowl. All gambling, including casino games and most certainly sportsbooks, are off limits for the 49ers and Chiefs because they are in town on official business.

Normally, players are allowed to legally gamble on their own time on practically anything except the NFL. Players on other teams visiting Las Vegas for the Super Bowl are permitted to gamble legally, but are prohibited from betting on the NFL and from entering a sportsbook until after the Super Bowl. Eagles center Jason Kelce can sit at a Blackjack table at Caesars Palace; his brother, Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, cannot.

The modified gambling policy was distributed to teams, players and the players’ union in a Sept. 29 league memo. With Super Bowl LVIII on Feb. 11 at Allegiant Stadium on the horizon, the Super Bowl stipulation is becoming relevant and league officials explained it to media members in a Tuesday video call.

Players have long been forbidden from betting while on team travel, so the rule isn’t unique to the Las Vegas host city. But the nature of the game and location, with scores of league personnel descending on Las Vegas for several days prior, makes for a potentially tenuous dynamic.

“The rules are no different for the participating teams, players and other personnel as they would be for any game,” said Jeff Miller, NFL executive vice president of communications, public affairs and policy. “When on business, there is no gambling, whether it be sports gambling or otherwise. And any player, coach, personnel, yours truly, who would be caught or identified gambling at a casino would be eligible for the disciplinary process. That would be addressed in the normal course of discipline as we would any player or any other personnel.”

Several players have been punished by the league for violating its gambling policy. Those who gamble on their own team are subject to a suspension of at least two years. Betting on the NFL triggers at least a year-long ban. Betting on non-NFL sports while at a team facility or on team-related travel results in escalating suspensions based on repeated action.

The league has been evolving in the gambling space since 2018, when the Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, allowing states to create and enforce their own sports betting laws. As of 2023, 38 states offer some form of legal sports betting, including 26 that allow online wagers on apps such as FanDuel and DraftKings.

California is the biggest state yet to legalize sports betting. California voters overwhelmingly denied a bill in 2022 that would have allowed sports gambling in the Golden State, and the gaming industry is making another push for the 2024 ballots.

In Las Vegas for the week leading up to the Super Bowl, the rules will be strict. Both the 49ers and Chiefs are staying in hotels in Lake Las Vegas, about 45 minutes off The Strip. Teams typically prefer quieter hotel locations so they can focus on preparing for the Super Bowl, but in this case, those lodging choices may be related to preventing gambling-specific distractions.

Miller downplayed any concerns of Vegas as a Super Bowl city, saying that the league’s focus — protecting the integrity of the game — is the same regardless.

“I think that there’s a pretty comfortable appreciation for Las Vegas,” Miller said. “And I think the rules associated with gambling have been made clear to the players, the coaches, the league, the club personnel, everybody else — so much so that they should be prepared for anything that Las Vegas has to offer in that realm. That’s also true for the 38 other states and the District of Columbia, and for all of the technological ways now that we know people can engage in sports gambling.

“So while Las Vegas is a symbol because it’s had sports gambling for quite some time, it’s also a very sophisticated city and a mature city as it relates to engagement with the NFL and other sports, at this point it makes us very comfortable playing a game there.”