With gambling becoming legalized in states everywhere, the NFL has begun their foray into sports betting by allowing teams to partner with gambling sponsors.
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The Denver Broncos were the first to get into it by partnering with the big three: daily fantasy sports, sports betting, and casinos. This is all garniture for now, but this could be the start of the NFL eventually becoming a full-fledged heavyweight in the ever-growing sports betting landscape.
"How the turntables," as Michael Scott of The Office would say. After being so notoriously against any form of gambling, including shutting down Tony Romo's fantasy football convention, the NFL has quickly done a 180 and loosened its anti-betting policy and is allowing gambling sponsors.
It didn't take the Denver Broncos long to act. They quickly signed a deal with not one, not two, but three gambling sponsors: FanDuel, BetMGM, and Betfred USA Sports (owner of the Saratoga Casino Black Hawk).
“There’s sports betting, there’s a daily fantasy, there are casinos, so there’s a lot of different aspects to these businesses,” said Mac Freeman, the Broncos’ chief commercial officer.
Gambling and sports betting only continue to become more significant as more states continue to lift bans. Sports betting culture has always been popular, but it's hitting new highs and the NFL wants in on the action.
What could be the most noticeable impacts on the NFL openly brokering deals with gambling companies?
Why the NFL enabling gambling sponsors is the first step
Money is the obvious answer. The sports betting industry keeps growing every year and its continual legalization will only help.
The NFL already made Caesars Entertainment Corporation its first official casino sponsor. So enabling teams like the Broncos to feature gambling sponsors is rudimentary. But it can go a few steps further.
When the Broncos signed a deal with BetMGM a part of the contract was to include betting lounges at Mile High.
How sports betting potentially impacts the NFL
The addition of sports betting and casino sponsors will give the NFL more revenue streams and open up a new avenue. Sports betting does make watching sports more intriguing and giving fans this ability to bet opens more possibilities.
These possibilities are open and all based on speculation. But the certain thing is that the league, the sport, and everyone involved will be affected in some way.
How it impacts football
Sports betting has long been considered taboo in the sports world because of its history of corruption. There have been numerous incidents of match-fixing with football beginning in 1906 with the Canton Bulldogs-Massillon Tigers betting scandal.
Other betting scandals have gone through the NFL like the 1946 NFL Championship Game that saw several get convicted of bribery. But in comparison to other sports like soccer and baseball, football, especially on the NFL's side, has been squeaky clean.
Fears of match-fixing and other betting scandals will always loom, but the players, coaches, and team owners all have too much to lose and NFL referees, while they do impact the game, would be harder pressed to fix an outcome than an NBA or soccer referee.
How it impacts the players
NFL players today make enough money to nonchalantly laugh away a few grand to "throw" a game. Even kickers, the one other player outside quarterback who has a considerable impact on the game, make a minimum of half a million.
The worry should come from how the NFLPA can negotiate with revenue sharing if and when the NFL gets a cut from the money made from sports betting. Under-the-table football betting is said to earn nearly $100 billion each year.
The NFL and its players getting a share of these profits could mean increases in salary caps and higher payrolls for the players in a best-case scenario.
How it impacts the fans
The fans are among the winners in this deal as they'll have even more access to betting resources outside of online sportsbooks and their local casinos (which doesn't include sports betting).
Giving fans a hub like the BetMGM Lounge is enticing and could help build a tight-knit community among the sports bettors. It also makes sports betting more accessible and would be welcoming for casual players.
One issue that may arise would be the NFL "contributing" to problem gambling. Like all vices, sports betting is best kept at a controlled pace and even if only a slight percentage of bettors develop a bad habit, that would make a black eye for everyone involved.
How it impacts the future of the NFL
Sports betting is growing and won't slow down any time soon. The NFL, and other pro sports leagues, owe some of their continued growth to sports betting. Now that it will be made more visible, there should be more opportunities to market and innovate.
Openly displaying casinos is a small step in the NFL "promoting" gambling. In a few seasons, the league will be one of the leaders of the billion-dollar behemoth of sports betting.