Only about 6 years ago, the National Football League (NFL) initiated the cancellation of some popular players’ scheduled appearances at a Las Vegas-based fantasy football convention. At the time, the most popular and prosperous professional sports league in the US was not willing to allow any relationship between professional football players and betting, citing a policy under which any gambling company-related appearances of football pros were suspended.
Now, only three years after in 2018 the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of sports betting and annulled the federal ban on the new form of gambling in the country, the NFL had a change of heart and walked the long way from opposing sports betting legalization efforts to embracing the newly-created industry as a massive source of revenue.
Even more, the National Football League has been aggressively pursuing a chunk from the profitable form of gambling by seeking partnerships with betting companies, featuring gambling content in various broadcasts and welcoming betting branding and marketing materials into stadiums.
According to a person familiar with the situation at the league, the NFL and its teams expect to generate revenue of approximately $270 million in 2021 from their deals with gambling and sportsbook operators. And this is only the beginning because the figure is only set to grow over the following years, with the $1-billion revenue mark expected to be hit over the current decade.
NFL Has a Change of Heart after Initially Going Against Sports Betting Legalization
It was not so long ago when the state of New Jersey sought to make sports betting services legal at the casinos in Atlantic City and the state’s racetracks and the largest sports organizations in the country, including the National Basketball Association (NBA), the National Football League (NFL), the NCAA, the National Hockey League (NHL) and Major League Baseball (MLB), fought back. At the time, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell addressed the New Jersey court with the position that the legalization and spread of sports betting would put the integrity of NFL football in danger. According to Mr. Goodell, the move would also negatively affect public confidence in the league.
By the middle of 2017, it was pretty obvious what the US Supreme Court decision would have been and the professional sports leagues saw it coming. As a result, they started doing research all over again, analyzing comparable situations worldwide and getting in contact with governing bodies, gambling operators, and sports entities.
NFL’s executive vice president Christopher Halpin confessed that legal sports betting services were terra incognita for the league for a long time, which was probably why many people have assumed the worst consequences from it. Now, the National Football League and other professional sports leagues across the US are trying to get the best of it and also to guarantee the best possible development for their fans.
According to reports, local citizens used to spend an overall amount between $75 billion and $125 billion on illegal sports betting services in the US at the time, especially on the Internet where they were easily able to access offshore sportsbooks that accepted American customers.
Furthermore, the research carried out by the league also helped the NFL prepare for the possible reactions of its fans to the new sports betting opportunities. Estimates have shown that about 20% of its fans aged 21 and older were frequently betting on sports, while about 30% of its adult fans were casual sports bettors, who were not tempted to place illegal sports wagers. From the remaining half of the surveyed NFL fans, another 30% did not care about the implementation of a possible sports betting service, while the remaining 20% were against it. As revealed by the League, the percentage of active rejecters declined each year when such research was carried out and is currently around 12%.
Also, the research found that customers who loved to frequently bet on sports were mostly young and male. The ones who actively rejected the legalization of sports betting were about 60% female and mostly over the age of 55.
Top Priorities for the NFL in Terms of Legalization and Offering of Sports Betting Services
According to the NFL, the ideal sports gambling legislation would feature substantive licensing rules and requirements aimed at guaranteeing clear and transparent markets in which costumes are well protected against possible gambling-related harm.
Also, the league believes that wagers need to be resolved using the NFL’s official data.
At the time when the US Supreme Court officially announced its decision to make sports betting legal across the country, with every state making a decision whether to legalize the new form of gambling individually, the NFL office was ready to make a move. First, it had to secure the support of the owners of the 32 teams in the league, some of whom were not inclined to welcome sports betting so easily.
The league had to explain to some of the team owners that sports betting is not a criminal activity and sportsbooks are available almost everywhere on a global scale. This turned out to be enough for the owners so that the NFL moved forward with its plans.
It made an agreement with an analytics firm to exclusively license its official data such as stats, scores, performance and other data collected during football games. Then, in 2019, the league inked its first-ever international sports betting sponsorships in the UK, Germany, Australia and Latin America.
NFL Strikes Partnership Agreements with Seven Sportsbook Operators in 2021
As mentioned above, the National Football League had a change of heart that resulted in the professional sports league seeking partnerships with some sports betting operators, broadcasting groups and other companies that operate within the sector.
At the end of August, the NFL announced it has reached partnership agreements with BetMGM, FOX Bet, WynnBET and PointsBet to make them Approved Sportsbook Operators for the upcoming 2021 NFL season. Under the provisions of the deals, all four bookmakers will become eligible to purchase in-game commercial units and other select media inventory of the professional football league.
This is not the first time when the National Football League inks such partnership deals. Back in April, the NFL unveiled its first-ever sportsbook partnership agreements with three of the largest sports betting companies in the US – Caesars Entertainment, FanDuel and DraftKings.
As part of the deals, the three gambling giants got the exclusive right to use NFL branding within the sports betting category. They were also allowed to integrate into O&O properties of the league and activate around land-based and online sports betting services. Apart from that, from the position of Approved Sportsbook Operators, DraftKings, FanDuel and Caesars Entertainment could secure premium NFL advertising inventory during football games and around supplementary programming.
Now, with the number of Approved Sportsbook Operators increased to seven, no other sportsbooks will be allowed to purchase the select NFL media and advertising inventory. All seven companies will operate in support of the league’s commitment to protecting the integrity of football and its fans. They will adhere to the major integrity policies of the NFL, collaborate with the league on various issues and support its efforts to promote safe and responsible gambling in the US.