NFL to Sign Deal with Sportsbook Operator as “Official Gaming Partner”
Daniel Kaplan of the Sports Business Journal said today that the NFL plans to get into the sports betting business in the near future. The NFL League Office told its collective ownership in a meeting in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex today that it wants to acquire an official sportsbook partner, like the NBA, NHL, and MLB have done before it.
In a tweet today, Daniel Kaplan wrote, “NFL officials will tell owners today at league meeting that it will begin process of securing a national casino sponsor. NBA, NHL and MLB already have national deals with gaming company MGM.”
In July 2018, the NBA signed a deal with MGM Resorts that recognized the Las Vegas casino company as the “official gaming partner” of the National Basketball Association. That was followed by MLB and NHL signing similar deals with MGM Resorts. For instance, Major League Baseball broadcasts will feature MGM Resorts logos and MLB.com will have branding and links to MGM Resorts websites.
Now it appears that the NFL wants to make a similar deal, whether it is with MGM Resorts or one of its many rivals.
NFL Partnerships with Casino Brands
The NFL’s entry into the sports betting market would be a remarkable transformation, though one which is logical and perhaps predictable. In 2016, the NFL owners agreed in a 31-1 vote to allow the Oakland Raiders to move to Las Vegas in 2020. The vote represented a huge change of policy for the NFL, which wanted to distance pro football from gambling links for decades.
Earlier this year, an NFL sub-committee approved partnership deals between league franchises and casinos which operate legal sportsbooks. That led to the Dallas Cowboys signing a deal with the WinStar World Casino in nearby Thackerville, Oklahoma, about an hour north of Dallas.
Soon after, the Baltimore Ravens signed a deal with Horseshoe Baltimore, which is owned by Caesars Entertainment. Then Caesars signed a deal with the Las Vegas Stadium, which will be the official home of the Las Vegas Raiders when they arrive in 2020. The Detroit Lions have a sponsorship deal with MGM Resorts, which owns the MGM Detroit.
NFL Draft Las Vegas 2020
The NFL’s embrace of Las Vegas and the gambling culture appears to have heightened this week. On Wednesday, the NFL announced that Las Vegas will host the ’20 NFL Draft. For the past several years, the NFL has rotated the central location of the league’s biggest offseason event, which stretches three days in late-April or early-May each year.
Placing the NFL Draft in Las Vegas is a clear sign of favor to the city. With the Raiders beginning play near the Las Vegas Strip only a few months after the NFL Draft in 2020, it is a way to hype the move of the Raiders to Sin City. Nashville will host the ’19 Draft, followed over the next four years in Dallas (1), Philadelphia (1), and Chicago (2).
It was not always so for the NFL. For decades, the league claimed legal sports betting would undermine the integrity of the league. NFL owners like the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Art Rooney was called before congressional committees, where he discussed the grave danger sports betting would cause to the public perception of pro football. Rooney presumably was an expert on the subject because he owned a racetrack with horse betting in Yonkers.
NFL Banned Associations with Sports Betting
The NFL was a leader among the sports associations which sued New Jersey in 2012 and later in 2014, when Gov. Chris Christie and the New Jersey legislature sought to legalize state-licensed sportsbooks. The court case from the NFL’s lawsuit eventually led to the May 2018 US Supreme Court decision which repealed the federal ban on sports betting.
Meanwhile, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (pictured above) was protective of its image. In 2015, the NFL banned the Dallas Cowboys’ Tony Romo from appearing at a fantasy sports convention held in a Las Vegas Strip casino. As recently as three years ago, NFL players could not step foot in a casino at a public appearance, because such associations would hurt the league’s reputation.
All that is gone now. It is a 180-degree reversal from the NFL policy two decades ago, three years ago, or even six months ago. Soon, the NFL will have a partnership deal with MGM Resorts, William Hill US, or Caesars Entertainment which makes that gaming company the “official gaming partner” of the National Football League. Oh, the irony.