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With Barney Frank’s bill to legalize online gambling out in the open, it seems that the battle lines are being drawn in Washington. The Congressman’s richest and most powerful opponents look to be the National Football League. The NFL have consistently trumpeted their distaste for online gambling and look set to throw their considerable weight behind anything that would undermine the UIGEA.

The NFL were key players in the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act being surreptitiously attached to the must-pass SAFE Port Act in 2006. This was supposedly to prevent sports betting from unduly affecting the outcome of matches. Since then, however, it has become apparent that the NFL have political and moral ideas above their station.

Opposition to online sports betting in order to preserve “the integrity of our game” was a worthy issue, but Barney Frank’s new bill explicitly excludes sports betting from legalization. Yet, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy has still come forward to admonish Frank for his actions and claim that they will “exercise our right to oppose Internet betting on our games.” That this new legalization does not deal with sports betting, and therefore arguably isn’t in the NFL’s remit, appears inconsequential. They have even gone as far as setting up a political action committee and hiring full time lobbyist Jeff Miller.

Despite constantly reinforcing their opposition to online gambling, recent news from Delaware is sending out confusing signals. Plans are afoot to introduce sports betting into the state lottery, which permits games of chance. NFL activists are opposing the move, claiming that sports betting is a game of skill and so should not be allowed under state law. This statement appears to contradict the NFL’s position on the UIGEA and gambling in general. If sports betting is a game of skill and not a game of chance then why are the NFL so embroiled in keeping online gambling illegal?

What is clear is that the NFL present the most steadfast impasse to Frank’s bill. He may need to rely on his allies in the PPA and Harrah’s to combat the negative activities of those opposed to legal, regulated, taxed online gambling.