NFL reaches settlement with charity over gambling policy

The NFL has reached a settlement with a youth charity that sued the league for fraud over how the league enforced its gambling policy at a casino near Las Vegas in 2015.

Terms of the settlement were not disclosed. But the agreement to close the federal court case comes about a week after the charity asked a federal judge to compel NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to testify under oath about the league’s gambling policy.

It also comes just a few days after USA TODAY Sports reported on the prospect of Goodell’s testimony as the league finds itself in an increasingly conflicted position about casinos and gambling.

 “All I am at liberty to say is that the case has settled,” Julie Pettit, an attorney for the charity, told USA TODAY Sports Friday.

The Sept. 25 trial date for the case was terminated on Friday as a result. The NFL declined comment.

The charity, Strikes for Kids, sued the league last year, saying it was misled by the league and lost revenue after being forced to relocate a bowling event for kids in 2015. More than 100 boys and girls were invited to the event at a bowling alley that was to feature more than 25 NFL players as the star attraction.

The problem was the location, according to the NFL. The event originally was to take place at a 72-lane bowling alley inside the Sunset Station hotel and casino. Before the event took place, an NFL lawyer notified the charity that this would violate the league’s gambling policy, which forbids players and personnel from making promotional appearances at casinos.

In response, the charity moved to the Brooklyn Bowl, a bowling alley with only 16 lanes available but physically not located inside a casino building. The NFL said this location was OK even though it was still part of the LINQ casino promenade near the Las Vegas strip.

To push its case, the charity wanted to question Goodell about why one casino-related bowling alley was OK but the other was not. It said it lost money and sponsors because it was forced to move to a smaller venue.

“There's only one person that can tell us what's the difference between the non-approved venue and the approved venue (Goodell),” Pettit told a federal magistrate judge last month. “And he's this Oz behind the curtain, this person that the NFL will not allow us to talk to. And everyone points their finger at him, saying he's the only one that can make that determination.”

The magistrate judge denied the charity’s request to force Goodell to testify, but the charity filed objections to that decision last week and tried again with a different judge – a decision that was pending until the settlement.

It was the latest legal entanglement the NFL found itself in over its gambling policy. Even after the league recently approved the relocation of the Oakland Raiders to the casino capital of Las Vegas, the policy shows the league is still invested in the notion that casinos are forbidden places for its players and personnel.

In 2015, Pettit’s firm also sued the league on behalf of a fantasy football company affiliated with former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. In that case, the company was set to a stage a fantasy football event at a convention facility that was not inside a casino but was near one, the Venetian, and owned by a casino company, the Las Vegas Sands.

Citing its gambling policy, the NFL essentially forbid Romo and others from appearing at this event, forcing its cancellation.

The NFL said it had the right to do so under its collective bargaining agreement with players. A judge in Texas agreed last year and threw the case out. But the company appealed, and that case is still pending.

In another case, outside of court, the league recently confirmed it was still reviewing a decision about what to do about players appearing at an arm-wrestling event at a Las Vegas casino in April.

While the league’s gambling policy prohibits players and personnel from making promotional appearances at casinos, teams are allowed to accept limited advertising from certain casinos. The Arizona Cardinals also recently has had discussions with a casino company, Gila River Gaming Enterprises, about the possibility of the company buying naming rights to the team’s stadium.

© 2017 KPNX-TV


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