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As Missouri continues to debate sports gambling, NFL Players Association raises security concerns

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Should Missouri become the next state to allow sports wagering, Joe Briggs hopes protections for athletes are solidified. 

Briggs, counsel for the NFL Players Association, testified before the House Special Interim Committee on Gaming Thursday afternoon, imploring lawmakers to consider certain protections for athletes when crafting legislation. He suggested lawmakers review Missouri criminal codes because legalized sports betting could put law enforcement “in a pickle” when having to decide if a “fan” is simply heckling an athlete or attempting to influence the game. 

“If I’m out at a restaurant, and a person says to me, ‘Hey, you missed that catch this week. If you miss that catch again next week, I’m going to punch you in the face.’ Well, maybe that person is heckling me, maybe they’re a super fan, and they just really want us to be successful next week,” Briggs said. 

State Rep. Dan Shaul chairs the Special Interim Committee on Gaming

But if a person changed that statement a bit to include he lost money on that dropped catch, “that person may be trying to influence gaming,” Briggs hypothesized. 

“Our players have some concerns about that. They want to make sure they can continue to live in their community unencumbered from having to think through whether a person is going to try to intimidate them in certain ways,” Briggs, who has represented professional football players for 14 seasons, said. “So a comprehensive review of your criminal code [is needed] to make sure that everyone is on the same page about where the line is, where crossing that line starts, and what would happen if a person did cross that line.”

Additionally, Briggs suggested implementing some sort of system for players to utilize to report potential wrongdoing. He proposed a hotline run by state gaming regulators, law enforcement, or the Attorney General’s Office. 

“One of the things that I continue to enjoy about those relationships is seeing how much they love the communities they’ve played in, how they’ve lived in the communities after their playing careers were done, and how they’ve continued to try to make sure those communities would benefit not only from football being a professional sport in their area but also the rules and regulations and integrity of our sport,” Briggs told lawmakers. 

“Our guys, our professional athletes, my football players that I’ve worked with for the last 14 seasons, they have me, and I can come here, and I can talk to you. But the same people that will bet on my guys will bet on the guys down the street at Mizzou, and they don’t have someone who will come up here and talk to you about this,” he said. “But they still need those protections.”

Briggs was just one of several people called before the gaming committee Thursday. It was the final meeting of the interim committee — which has looked at a whole host of issues during the interim, including potentially illegal machines popping up around Missouri. 

The committee is expected to prepare a report for the House speaker by the end of the year. 

Republican Rep. Dan Shaul chaired the committee with GOP Rep. Dan Houx serving as vice chair. Republican Reps. Dirk Deaton, Robert Ross, and Jeff Shawan also sat on the committee, along with Democrats LaKeySha Bosley and Wes Rogers.