When it comes to gambling and sports betting, attitudes are changing, and our grand old institutions have to change with them. From internet casinos to betting on college football online, it’s now perfectly legal in many US states to enjoy sensible gambling over the web even on NFL games.
One reason for this is that individual states have recognized the huge amounts of revenue that can be made by taxing properly regulated online gambling. Regulation also ensures that the providers are responsible, fair and transparent, and that the adult users of their services aren’t deceived or defrauded. Where demand exists, the logic of legalized online gambling is hard to refute, and doubtless many more states will be going down this route over the coming months and years.
Follow the money
Many are still opposed to gambling, however, and sports betting in particular. Until recently, the NFL ranked among the most high profile of such opponents. However, the league too had to ultimately recognize that the will of the people and, perhaps most pressingly, financial realities were both stacked against them. The NFL, like the rest of us, has to go where the money is.
Falling in line
With hindsight, it seems inevitable that the NFL would bow to these pressures and accept a gambling provider as a sponsor. This is, after all, something that is commonplace in many other sports around the world. In UK soccer, many of the biggest clubs are sponsored by sports betting and online casino providers. It was only the NFL’s outspoken opposition to sports betting that made the announcement at the start of this year surprising.
Render unto Caesars
In January, the league announced a partnership with Caesars Entertainment. The NFL was quick to point out that this was with the company’s casino arm only, and did not include sports betting, daily fantasy or hotels and resorts. Nevertheless, the league going into partnership with a casino for the first time was big news. Debuting with the 2019 playoff season, the deal gave Caesars exclusive rights to NFL branding and promotion opportunities at NFL events throughout the year.
Ready to change
In fact, the league had been preparing for this moment since May 2018, and probably for some time before. When the Supreme Court first ruled that states could legalize sports gambling, the NFL admitted that it would be addressing these changes via education programs and compliance training. It neglected to mention that its attitude towards sponsorship would also be shifting, but when there’s a $30m per year deal on the table, it’s not hard to see why that might be the case.
Everyone’s a winner
This extra revenue can only be good for the league, and for the sport as a whole. One can only hope that the money effectively filters down to some of the more cash-strapped clubs out there. Better facilities and more money to sign and train players will benefit everyone.
NFL branding at casinos could also bring in new fans to the sport, though the more likely impact will be that casinos will be legitimized and made respectable in the eyes of many who had previously viewed them as veritable gilded palaces of sin.
The partnership with Caesars has undoubtedly set an important precedent. As 2019 draws to a close, the NFL will be reviewing the situation and assessing whether the positive benefits have outweighed any negative associations. There’s no reason to think that their conclusions will be anything but favorable, and more casino operators are now likely to come in as sponsors, either on a national or club level.
It also seems inevitable that sports betting providers will eventually join the casinos as sponsors or partners. In fact, this will likely happen sooner rather than later. When one considers that allowing this could mean more than $2bn in extra revenue for the league, the Caesars deal looks like chicken feed in comparison.
An important point about this level of sponsorship is that it would greatly reduce the NFL’s reliance on television broadcasting rights as a major source of income. Any move that makes the league less beholden to the network will be welcomed in many quarters, even if it does mean getting into bed with sports betting outlets. While some may see this as choosing the lesser of two evils, it’s also the case of the means justifying the ends. Those ends include better facilities, better infrastructure and ultimately a better experience for fans, players and management alike.