Betting Reference Policies Differ on NFL Games for CBS, NBC

Al Michaels Sports Betting References

Al Michaels hosted ABC’s Monday Night Football from 1986 to 2005, and has hosted NBC’s Sunday Night Football from 2006 to the present.

Legendary broadcaster Al Michaels no longer will have to make passing references to gambling during NBC’s Sunday Night Football broadcasts. For decades, Al Michaels has made sly insinuations about betting lines and point spreads during football broadcasts, though the network and the NFL wanted no hint of gambling in their prime time broadcasts.

When asked about his sly references to gambling over the years by a Chicago Tribune reporter this week, Al Michael said, “I’ve had a lot of fun with this through the years, coming in a backdoor, a side door, whatever – different ways to use the English language – people know what I’m talking about.”

The Hall of Fame broadcaster, who might be most famous for his “Do you believe in miracles?” question during the 1980 US National Hockey Team defeat of the Soviet Union, added, “But in the past when I would do this, it was almost as if the fans would think, ‘He’s not supposed to do it, but that’s kind of cool.’ Now it’s going to be out there.”

It is “going to be out there” for NBC, at least. CBS Sports announced this week it would not mention gambling during one of its NFL broadcasts. Some change comes close.

PASPA Overturned by Supreme Court

Other change comes quickly. Due to changes in federal laws in the offseason, gambling is no longer taboo at NBC, at least. When the US Supreme Court ruled the PASPA federal ban on sports betting in 46 states was unconstitutional, it changed the game.

The NFL, which for decades sought to squelch sports betting in America, just this week passed new bylaws which allow casinos with sportsbooks to advertise on NFL broadcasts. Sportsbooks can advertise in sports stadiums, too.

Casinos Might Buy Naming Rights for Stadiums

Even more, those same gaming companies can buy naming rights on NFL-associated stadiums. Most believe the lift of that particular ban means a Las Vegas casino company will buy naming rights on Mark Davis and the Las Vegas Raiders’ new stadium when it opens in Las Vegas in 2020.

Thus, Las Vegas-area football fans might be entering the MGM Grand Stadium, the Wynn Sports Arena, or the Sheldon Adelson Dome when they go to watch the Raiders play in 2020.

Fred Gaudelli’s Gambling Policy at NBC

Fred Gaudelli, Sunday Night Football’s executive producer, said the same deals are in place which have existed between tv networks and the sports leagues for decades. Gaudelli recently said, “At this point, we’re going to honor the deals and there weren’t be any specific gambling messages on our air this year.”

The question is whether broadcast networks will enforce their deals with on-air talent in an age when the NFL allows teams to sign sponsorship deals with casinos. And if the networks break the spirit of their handshake arrangement with the NFL, will NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell hold the networks to their word.

Beyond that, implied Gaudelli, broadcasts might take things into their own hands. Gaudelli jokingly said, “Then again, late in the fourth quarter, I have a rascal up in the booth.”

CBS Policy on Gambling References

CBS Sports is taking the matter more seriously. After Sports Illustrated’s Jimmy Traina spoke with CBS President Sean McManus recently, Traina tweeted, “At CBS’ NFL Media Day. CBS Sports President Sean McManus just told me CBS NFL announcers will not mention point spreads, teams covering the spreads, etc, during telecasts this season.”

When asked later about his network’s policy on sports betting references, Sean McManus of CBS Sports said, “Right now, we’re not planning to discuss gambling information in our broadcast. Whether it’s lines or over-under – we’re just not. There’s still a very small number of states that have approved it. So again, we’re going to monitor the situation, but the plan is not to address gambling issues in our NFL coverage.”

ESPN’s References to Gambling

Each network is going to have its own stance on the matter. ESPN is a cable network, so it might have looser restrictions than CBS, NBC, or Fox might. ESPN might not make a lot of reference to gambling during broadcasts, but ESPN’s Chalk is one of the most visited gambling blogs in the United States. After countless DraftKings and FanDuel commercials over the past few years, its relationship to gaming and/or gambling is simply different.

Connor Schell, ESPN’s executive vice president for content, said, “We’re going to be really thoughtful about it. We know there’s a huge intersection of sports fans and those who bet, and now that they can do that legally, we’ll think about if we want to inject content inside existing shows, if we want to create some stand-alone programming.”

Schell added, “I think those things under consideration, but no decisions have been made.”