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NFL and DOJ Documents Discuss Sports Betting as “Game of Skill”

In what could be a ground-breaking point in ongoing efforts to legalize betting on America sports in the US, ESPN has discovered written opinions by the Department of Justice and the National Football League where sports betting is referred to as a game of skill. By searching public records, the media outlet found written documents by US Attorney General Loretta Lynch, as well as attorneys representing the NFL where sports betting was linked to skill.

In 2013, Lynch wrote in the case of the United States vs DiCristina: “Sports betting … involves ‘substantial [not slight] skill.’ Sports bettors can employ superior knowledge of the games, teams, and players in order to exploit odds that do not reflect the true likelihoods of the possible outcomes.”

“While a sports bettor cannot [legally] influence the outcome of a game, sports bettors can and do influence the ‘betting line’ or ‘point spread’ in order to improve their odds of making a successful bet,” wrote Lynch. “Specifically, a gambler intending to make a large bet on one team may first place one or more smaller, strategic bets on the other team to move the betting line and make it more favorable for the ultimate intended bet.”

A decade earlier, attorneys representing the NFL gave their opinion regarding the introduction of a football-based lottery to Delaware. Covington and Burling argued that the state’s own constitution would not allow this type of lottery since sports betting uses elements of skill and was not dependent on luck alone.

“Sports betting combines both skill and chance, but the element of chance, though perhaps significant, is not ‘dominant’,” they wrote. “Typical sports bettors gather and analyze information, sometimes in significant quantities, about the nuances of the sports on which they bet. They read about the teams that are facing-off in particular games-their standings, records, box scores, game summaries, injuries, and recent transactions. They then weigh the probabilities of each team winning and compare their determinations to those of the odds-maker…”