What The NFL Thinks About Legal Sports Betting

Change is coming to professional sports in America and it is coming in the way of legal sports betting. This will be good news for the NFL, and this is what the NFL thinks about legal sports betting in America. Since the Supreme Court favored New Jersey’s constitutional challenge against the bet-banning Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA, 1992), domestic legal sports betting has become more a question of “when” rather than “if.” The NFL’s opinion on sports betting stands at the other end of the spectrum.

Every other major sports league such as the MLB, NBA, NHL, and even MLS has fully embraced the new industry. However, the NFL still remains to be timid in their approach to handling all the states that have legalized sports betting. It’s strange, given the face that NFL betting makes up the bulk of all sports bets placed every year. As a matter of fact, Americans bet more on the Super Bowl than any other single sporting event every year. This is millions of dollars that the NFL stands to take advantage of, yet they have tried to embrace the industry at a distance.

Does The NFL Support Legal Sports Betting?

Not really. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell hasn’t actively spoken in support of legal sports betting, rather that he and the league accept that it’s here and that they will do everything in their power to adapt to it. The NFL did name Caesars Entertainment their official casino sponsor even though certain Caesars properties have sportsbooks within them. They also struck a deal with DraftKings, naming them the league’s official daily fantasy sports partner. That deal didn’t involve DraftKings sports betting operations. And the league extended its partnership with Sportradar to allow them to distribute league data to sportsbooks but there is no clear indication how they will profit from that move. Other leagues have full-on partnerships with sportsbook companies but the NFL isn’t quite there yet.

Why doesn’t Roger Goodell Support Legal Sports Betting?

Most of Goodell’s opposition to legal sports betting has to do with optics. While sports betting represents a potentially lucrative revenue stream, the act of gambling still carries negative connotations for many fans. The NFL is a juggernaut of the sporting industrial complex, but the only way for the league to continue to grow and expand its reach is by remaining as broad and inoffensive as possible. Fully embracing gambling could drive away certain fan demographics. It’s spineless, but Goodell’s insistence on a tacit, arms-length association with sports betting makes business sense for the NFL. At least until public attitudes about sports betting have more time to evolve. 

Do NFL Owners Support Legal Sports Betting?

Of course, Roger Goodell is not the entire NFL, and he certainly doesn’t represent the private thoughts of all the owners under his rule. If said owners got behind the legalization of sports betting, the commissioner would probably go along with them. But the owners aren’t openly touting the merits of legal sports betting just yet. We can only guess as to why, but it might have something to do with the sport’s current domination of the public market- and mind-shares. The NFL is far more popular than its domestic competitors, and with Major League Baseball talking about gambling in the context of “sponsorships,” it’s entirely plausible that the football business doesn’t want anyone else soaking up the public’s money – money that would otherwise go to the bloated NFL coffers.

There’s also the issue of saturation – Would legal sports betting prompt lots of folks to spend their earmarked funds in the early part of the year on events and sports like the NBA Playoffs, the NCAA’s March Madness, and the MLB season? These are all probably concerns to the NFL, but logic dictates that – as Americans already spend an astronomical amount of money on overseas sports betting – the status quo of the NFL’s market presence isn’t likely to suffer. And many analysts further opine that though the NFL will never publicly support sports betting, they believe the league will stop actively fighting the inevitable.

However, while it is possible that the majority of owners don’t support legalized sports betting, certain ones do. Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan went on to say in an interview with Yahoo Sports that he believes NFL owners are ready to start having serious discussions about implementing sports betting at their individual stadiums. Certain teams have already begun to offer sports betting types of platforms. NBC Sports Washington offers live prediction games for fans watching on TV. The Los Angeles Rams also have a betting-like app that is available to users nationwide. It seems as though owners will act independently rather than pushing Roger Goodell or the league as a whole to do something.

Why Did The NFL Move The Raiders To Las Vegas If They Are Against Legal Sports Betting?

That’s a good question, and there’s no answer other than “money.” The Las Vegas Raiders are scheduled to start playing at their new home at the start of the 2020 season, by which time only more states will have legalized sports betting. Perhaps the league intends to use the Raiders relocation as a sort of preemptive test run, gauging the effects of a pervasive gambling environment on both its players and its product. Or maybe it’s just because they know that they can make tons of money by hitting a whole new market. The NHL has a team in Vegas now and within just a short time that team made it the Stanley Cup Finals and brought in an influx of viewership. The NFL is also keen to the boom that the sports gambling industry is about to undertake. While they might not be directly encouraging the industry, they understand where there is money to be made.

Legal Sports Betting Will Only Make The NFL Better

The freedom for people to spend their money as they wish is never a bad thing, and legal sports betting is poised to improve the NFL in a number of ways. Not only will easy access to sportsbooks and their various prop bets keep more folks glued to their TV screens even after their team is getting blown out by 28 in the third quarter, it’ll let folks cash in when they bet on said losing team to make an epic Super Bowl comeback and rip the heart out of an entire southern population center. Increased engagement naturally leads to increased revenue and increased advertiser support, too, so every party benefits.

Plus, there’s even an outside chance that the increased profits might lead the NFLPA to negotiate a better CBA, making the payout for the players better, too. The NFL, after all, is one of the most dangerous sports on the planet, and it takes considerable risk to play in the thing. Maybe not as much as betting on it, but considerable nevertheless. So maybe their marquee players should make a little bit more than, say, a bottom-third shortstop or a perpetually injured 11th man. The NFL’s opinion on sports betting is likely to change over time based on how much money they stand to make or lose.

Now if only we could get the NFL to quit throwing flags every time a 400-pound lineman tries to perform an end zone riverdance, we’d really be getting somewhere.

NFL’s Views On Legal Sports Betting FAQs

Will The NFL Ever Partner With A Sports Betting Company?

Judging by how every other league has already done this, we expect it’s only a matter of time before the NFL does the same. Having sports betting companies as partners ultimately allows the NFL to better distribute its in-game data which means better live betting opportunities which means higher fan engagement. It’s only in the league’s best interest to partner with prominent U.S. sportsbooks.

Can The NFL Stop Teams From Having Sportsbooks In Their Stadiums?

The NFL, while a powerful influencer, can not get in the way of local state laws. Places like Illinois and Washington D.C. allow sports betting parlors in their professional teams’ stadiums. That means FedEx Field and Soldier Field could soon start to offer legal sports betting.