NFL commissioner Roger Goodell remains focused on the integrity of the game, while also preparing for a pending United States Supreme Court decision that could allow states to legalize sports betting.
Goodell, appearing Tuesday on ESPN's Golic & Wingo, acknowledged that the gambling landscape in the U.S. is changing and says the league has evolved on the issue, but its top priority remains the same.
"You don't want to do anything that's going to impact negatively on the integrity of our game," Goodell said. "You want to be certain that there are no outside influences on our game, and that fans don't even have any issue with that; they understand, whether it's a perception or not, that there is no influence on our game. And that's something we stand firmly behind on the integrity of our game."
The NFL is part of a lawsuit against the state of New Jersey, which is attempting to allow its casinos and racetracks to offer Las Vegas-style sports betting. The case centers on the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, the federal prohibition of state-sponsored sports betting, and whether it is constitutional.
A ruling is expected as early as March and by the end of June at the latest.
"The Supreme Court is considering changes potentially in laws with respect to gambling across our country," Goodell said. "We're going to be prepared as a league to address those, no matter how the Supreme Court comes out, but also how things continue to evolve. I think we have, but we're going to protect the integrity of the game, I assure you of that."
The American Gaming Association estimates $4.76 billion will be bet on the Super Bowl between the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles, with 97 percent of the action taking place with illegal operators.
When asked why legalization would hurt the integrity of the game as opposed to the illegal sports betting that takes place in the current environment, Goodell said it will depend on the regulatory framework and consumer protections put in place.
"It just isn't throwing the doors open," Goodell said. "And that's our biggest issue, because that affects our fans, it affects our players, it affects the confidence in our game. So that's the line we're going to continue to hold."