Sources: NFL Moving Closer to Entering Sports Betting Business

Sources: NFL Moving Closer to Entering Sports Betting Business article feature image

Suchat Pederson/The News Journal via USA TODAY NETWORK, Pictured: Delaware sportsbook

  • The NFL is currently the only major American sports league to not have a data licensing deal with a gaming operator.
  • On Wednesday at the owners meetings, league officials spoke in detail about their future dealings with the sports betting world.
  • Darren Rovell reports the details of those conversations from sources in the room.

While the NFL has staunchly opposed sports gambling publicly, preferring to wait for federal legislation, the league began to take steps on Wednesday behind closed doors to capitalize on the business.

Sources told The Action Network that the league discussed the current environment with owners and their representatives at the owners meetings in Irving, Tex., on Wednesday.

In those meetings, officials expressed the desire to get into the data licensing business by next year. The three other major American sports leagues (NBA, NHL and MLB) have already done deals in this space, each with MGM, with the NBA having done two additional deals since.

Sources peg the MGM-NBA deal at 3 years, $24 million, the MGM-NHL and the MGM-MLB deals at 4 years, $28 million.

League officials also talked about the potential for live betting feeds and licensing footage to sports gambling shows.

As of now, the league only allows teams to do sponsorship deals with casinos, not standalone sportsbooks.

The Dallas Cowboys have a deal with Winstar World Resort in Oklahoma. The Baltimore Ravens have a sponsorship deal with the Horseshoe Casino Baltimore. And the New York Jets have sponsorships with 888 and MGM, both of which have mobile sportsbook apps available in New Jersey, but the league has deemed that teams can’t overtly promote gambling and can only promote their brands.

That looks like it will all change in the not-too-distant future.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has consistently said that he wants Congress to monitor the legalization of sports gambling and not the states, even though the Supreme Court’s overturning of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 allowed the states to unilaterally make their own decisions.

Federal oversight is a longshot, but might not be impossible. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) drafted legislation this month, first reported by ESPN, that would require states to apply for approval with the U.S. attorney general’s office. It would also force operators to use only official data.

The 180-degree turn on sports gambling by the NFL became more apparent on Wednesday when the league approved the 2020 draft to take place in Las Vegas.

In 2015, the NFL forced the cancelation of Tony Romo’s National Fantasy Football Convention, where active players were scheduled to appear, after the league cited rules that players can’t be at a location owned by a casino. The location itself, the Sands Expo, did not offer any gambling.

On Wednesday, New Jersey announced it had pulled in $928 million in sports wagers in its first five and a half months. More than a third of all bets were on NFL games (35.3 percent).

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