The major sports leagues in the United States were heavily opposed to legalized sports betting, but their efforts to prevent the Supreme Court from ending the federal ban proved to be in vain. The National Football League (NFL) has now surprised a lot of people by allowing its teams to obtain gambling sponsors and the league has announced that certain gambling ads will be permitted during the season.
NFL’s stance on sports betting
The US Supreme Court decided in May to overturn the 1992 ban on sports betting in the country. The NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, and NCAA had fought to prevent legalization for many years and spent many millions of dollars lobbying.
They felt that it would have a negative effect on the integrity of their events. Once the Supreme Court decision was announced, these organizations didn’t wait long before developing a new strategy.
The NBA and MLB lobbied individual states to have integrity fees implemented as part of their sports betting legalization. However, no state has yet made a provision for integrity fees. New York came the closest but did not pass its sports betting bill before the legislative session close.
Integrity fees are presented as compensation from sports betting operators for being allowed to offer betting on the organizations’ events. These funds would be used to monitor suspicious betting.
The NFL avoided the integrity fee route but did put forth a proposal to protect the league’s intellectual property. If sports betting operators want to utilize valuable league data, the NFL wants them to pay for the privilege.
One reason that the NFL didn’t pursue integrity fees was probably the negative attention it would have gathered. Instead, it decided to take a lower-key approach.
Recent developments in the NFL
There seems to be something of a divide in the NFL’s approach to sports betting. With the regular season fast approaching, the league implemented a number of related measures.
For example, CBS Sports announced that, in its role as a television partner to the NFL, it would not allow its announcers to mention anything related to sports betting during game broadcasts.
It is unclear whether other television partners such as ESPN and FOX Sports will do the same, but with television rights being so competitive, it is likely that these networks will want to stay in the NFL’s good books.
Many people were surprised when the NFL announced that teams would be allowed to accept gambling-related sponsors. Casinos that enter into partnerships with NFL teams will be permitted to run ads during the pre- and post-game shows.
They can also use the brand logo of their partnered NFL team in every type of advertising that they do. The main caveat is that the teams are not allowed to take part in a revenue-sharing agreement with any gambling-related sponsor.
They also cannot directly market their sportsbooks offering with their partnered team. Stadium naming rights now include a provision for casino-related sponsorship.
The Business Ventures Committee of the NFL gave the green light for this rule change, which will come into effect in time for the first regular season games on September 7. Most of the team owners backed the move because it could lead to a lot of lucrative deals.
Other major sports leagues have already opened themselves up to partnering with gambling-related companies.
The NBA, for example, signed a partnership agreement worth about $25m (£19m) with MGM Resorts. This will make MGM the official gaming partner for both the NBA and the WNBA.
The relaxing of sponsorship and advertising rules opens up a lucrative new stream of revenue for the league and its teams.