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NFL players are permitted to play blackjack and other casino games

Top Punters

Professional sports stars and gambling is a combination that has led to some high-profile trouble over the years. People still talk about the black socks' scandal, even though it took place more than 100 years ago, and in more recent history, Colts quarterback Art Schlichter received an NFL suspension when it emerged that he had gambling debts of $150,000.

It came as no surprise, therefore, when a group of NFL players were handed fines for pitching up at the MGM Grand Casino in Las Vegas to participate in a televised pro football arm wrestling event. Pro footballers should be nowhere near a casino, right? It turns out not to be quite as simple as that.

What are the rules?

More than 30 current and former NFL stars took part in the event, including Patriots safety Patrick Chung and Steelers linebacker James Harrison. But the problem was not so much that they visited a casino, but that they had a television crew with them.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy explained that the League's players are at liberty not only to visit casinos, but to place money on slots, blackjack, roulette or whatever other game they choose, as long as they do it in their personal time.

What they are not allowed to do, however, is to make promotional appearances at gambling-related establishments. Appearing in front of TV cameras for a special one-off event at what is probably the most famous casino in the United States would definitely fall into that category.

Everyone's learning how to play blackjack

The clarification must be welcome news to many NFL stars who are getting caught up in the current blackjack craze. In part, it is almost certainly down to the rise of online casinos, which have brought new opportunities to get involved, and suddenly everyone wants to learn the basic strategies. Guides on how to play blackjack such as are popping up across the internet, and the competitive nature of professional sports players means they are certain to take an interest.

Of course, the same applies to other casino games, such as slots and roulette, but the attraction of blackjack is that it is a game with which we are all familiar. You can literally teach the basic principles to a child of five, and they will get the idea within minutes. But at the same time, there are strategies that go so deep, they can take years to master, and involve complex mathematics.

Sporting gamblers

Some people believe that the US gets too worried about gambling, and to the rest of the world, the puritanical attitudes of some states compared with the anything goes attitude of Nevada can be baffling.

In the UK, things are a great deal simpler. Sports stars are not permitted to place bets on their own sport, but aside from that, they can do as they wish. In fact, a number of snooker players are also well known on the poker circuit, and regularly appear in televised events. Just imagine what the NFL would say about that.