Players' union executives from the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL have had several formal meetings to begin preparing for a potential legalization of sports gambling, NFLPA executive George Atallah told The MMQB on Thursday.
The representatives have been meeting over the past year and a half to discuss the impact that legalized sports gambling could have on players, The MMQB reported.
"Yes, the sports unions have been discussing the issue, in particular around the integrity of our respective games," Atallah told The MMQB. "We're collaborating on it. We might be open to changes that are coming because of [legalized sports gambling], but before we get to the revenue aspect of it, do we have the infrastructure in place to prevent any sort of shenanigans? That's the issue."
Atallah told The MMQB that the players' unions have looked into how overseas countries have handled legalized sports gambling. They have also looked at legislation in New Jersey, where efforts to legalize sports betting have been made for several years.
ESPN has reached out to the NBPA and NFLPA for comment.
For decades, the four major American professional sports leagues have been staunch opponents of legal sports betting, claiming it jeopardizes the integrity of the games. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, while discussing the Oakland Raiders' future move to Las Vegas, said recently that the league remains opposed to expanding legal sports betting in the U.S.
The NHL has been quiet on the subject, while it prepares for the expansion Vegas Golden Knights to take the ice for their inaugural season in the fall.
The NBA has pivoted its position on sports betting altogether, though, with commissioner Adam Silver calling on Congress to create a federal framework and allow states to legalize sports betting. Major League Baseball is aligning itself with the NBA.
In May, a congressional committee introduced a draft bill that aims to repeal the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA), the federal prohibition on sports betting. And, on Monday, the American Gaming Association will announce the formation of a coalition that plans to begin lobbying to lift PASPA this year.
Industry stakeholders estimate that the process to legalize sports betting in the U.S. will take several years. In the meantime, sports betting is permitted in only a handful of states, with only Nevada allowed to offer legal gambling on individual games and events.
New Jersey has appealed its latest effort to bring legal Las Vegas-style sports betting to the state's racetracks and Atlantic City casinos all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is expected to decide whether to take the case in late June.
On Thursday, Connecticut joined a growing number of states considering allowing sports betting if PASPA is lifted, according to the Hartford Courant.
ESPN's David Purdum contributed to this report.