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The NFL Bets the Over on Their Gambling Partnership

Updated: Sep 22, 2022

Money truly does make the world go round. Legalized sports gambling is another commodity that has been grabbing headlines over the last decade. The concept is simple, a person places a bet on any amount of various outcomes throughout the course of a quarter, game, or season. However, a simple concept is seldom as straightforward in law.

As of May 14, 2018, the federal ban on sports betting was lifted by the Supreme Court of the U.S, allowing each state to decide whether or not they want sports gambling legalized. 3 years later, and there are 22 states with legalized sports betting, 8 with a recent bill passed, 18 with a bill introduced into legislation but not passed, and 3 with no bill introduced[1]. The legal well goes even deeper as the states with legalized sports betting have different prohibitions and methods of gambling permitted. For example, in New York, a resident may place a sports bet in-person at a casino, but may not place a bet over a mobile device using apps such as DraftKings or FanDuel (although a bill on this is pending). Furthermore, 12 states with legalized gambling do not allow betting on local or in-state collegiate teams. So it’s not an all-or-nothing endeavor, legalized sports gambling is a complicated issue and one that must be closely monitored and regulated. Many fans and NFL personnel fear issues of corruption and “throwing” games, especially on the collegiate level. This is a valid concern, however legalized betting will actually reduce the likelihood of corruption as the wagers will be heavily monitored and under strict regulation.

This is where the NFL comes in. As of April 15, 2021, the NFL reached an agreement with Caesars, DraftKings and FanDuel as its official partners for sports gambling[2]. The NFL had been adamant in its opposition to the idea of legalized sports gambling especially in regards to their league as commissioner Roger Goodell wrote in a letter to New Jersey Court that “[It] threatens to damage irreparably the integrity of, and public confidence in, NFL football”[3]. However as they say, money talks and in this case it was loud. Once the NFL could predict the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the federal ban on sports gambling, it began doing its due diligence in order to see if this is a worthwhile endeavor. The numbers they discovered were staggering as anywhere from $75-$125 billion was illegally gambled in the United States, primarily through mobile devices to offshore sports books. Those numbers are too good to ignore and the NFL quickly changed its position partnering with the three gambling companies and now expecting around $270 million in revenue from sports-betting and gambling with the potential to grow to $1 billion+[4].

The final piece of this gambling puzzle comes with balancing the betting fans viewing experience and the casual fans experience. Bettors are going to want to see live lines and prop bets, whereas the casual fan probably just wants to watch the game undisturbed. Alternate broadcasts and minor changes to the ticker on the bottom of the screen including a points line is the most likely solution, as gamblers can seek out podcasts and shows dedicated to sports betting for a more comprehensive experience. Overall, the partnership is a good thing and something that seemed inevitable. It was going to happen anyway and from the NFL’s perspective they might as well make some money off of it. Don’t be surprised to hear how that pick 6 in the dying seconds of the game might have cost someone their chance of winning or how that touchdown in garbage time affects fantasy football players. Sports and gambling have been and always will be synonymous and now they’re taking the next step towards a symbiotic relationship.

Evan Mattel is a 1L at Hofstra Law and a member of the Sports and Entertainment Law Society. He can be found at @ Evan_Mattel21 on Twitter.

[1] Rodenberg, Ryan. “United States of Sports Betting: An Updated Map of Where Every State Stands.” ESPN. ESPN Internet Ventures, April 7, 2021. [2]Nfl. “NFL Announces TRI-EXCLUSIVE Official Sports Betting Partners.” NFL, April 15, 2021. [3] Maske, Mark, and Ben Strauss. “The NFL Once Viewed Sports Betting as a THREAT. Now the League Wants the Action.” The Washington Post. WP Company, August 27, 2021. [4]

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