America’s most popular sport has a long and storied history, so it only makes sense that it has a colorful betting scene history too. While knowing about the history of NFL betting might not turn a losing wager into a winning one, it’s still useful to understand some betting laws and how they have developed.
You’ll find a brief NFL history below. Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the history of NFL betting, you can get NFL odds from Fanduel and other sportsbooks sites to inform your future bets.
Betting In Early America
Before the NFL comes into the picture, we know that gambling has been practiced in America from the very start. Lotteries were used to raise funds for the colony during the revolt and when taxing the populace would lead to unrest. In the 1830s, it was banned due to corrupt practices.
In that vacuum came sports betting. After the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, horses were put to racing and that started to gain popularity as a spectator sport. Over the next century, baseball also became America’s beloved sport, and with it came a new culture of betting on how the games would turn out.
The Origin Of Football Betting
After the Roaring Twenties and the Great Depression, illegal gambling was sweeping across the country and pressuring state governments to enact legalization of the practice. Even then, sports betting remained illegal in many places as a separate entity, and this included football betting. The NFL started in 1920 in Ohio and gradually grew in popularity and harbored a betting environment around it.
The most prominent wagers being placed were moneyline bets and parlays, though the parlays were often corrupt and unfairly weighted towards the bookmakers making a profit. As the 1930s continued, the model of betting $100 to win an amount was pioneered and used to express sportsbook odds.
Sports betting was legalized in Nevada in 1951 although this came with problems. The sports betting tax placed on legal bookmakers meant that the business model was unprofitable when compared to the illegal bookmakers, who avoided tax and took more profit.
Gambling and sports betting were made illegal to discuss over the phone or via mail after the Federal Wire Act and the Travel Act were passed in 1961. Following shortly after, the Sports Bribery Act in 1964 precluded athletes from participating in the illegal gambling industries taking hold.
The Illegal Gambling and Business Act of 1970 handed even more power to the federal government, which was trying to stamp out criminal organizations. Senator Howard Cannon of Nevada correctly identified the problem and convinced Congress to lower the betting tax from 10% to 2%, making legal bookmaking profitable and cutting into illegal operations.
Unfortunately, a lot of the progress of the last fifty years was crutched by the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) that chased sports betting to countries like Britain instead, where NFL betting became popular.
Modern NFL Betting
The tide turned in 2006 with the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act that blurred the lines between fantasy sports and gambling. Having sponsored the 1964 Bribery Act, the NFL had historically opposed sports betting on their events. This changed in 2016 when the league moved the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas, suggesting their attitude to gambling was relaxing.
Vince McMahon’s XFL, on the other hand, welcomed sports betting and included betting information in their broadcasts. The NFL has undoubtedly noticed this and feels pressure to modernize and accept the sports betting crowds.
As it stands, getting caught betting on NFL games as an NFL member is still considered bad behavior, getting Josh Shaw a thirty-five-year suspension in 2019. As the potential benefits start to outweigh the negative aspects of the industry, many hope that the NFL will become more favorable to the massive betting environment that has grown around the sport.