The National Football League is shameless. After decades of maintaining with a straight face that betting had no material impact on the popularity of their sport and after decades of using every political and legal trick in the book to prevent Americans from sports betting their tone has changed dramatically. Now, they’re desperate to ‘wet their beak’ while trying to save face and pretend that they’re not actually an ethically vacuous organization. At least they’re not as sleazy as the NCAA….
Just over a week ago, ESPN’s excellent gaming writer David Purdum reported that the NFL had signed a deal for an ‘official wagering partner’. Not here in the United States where they have to save face and maintain their veneer of sanctimony but in Australia. TAB is likely the leading gaming brand in Australia and the NFL worked out a deal with their parent company Tabcorp and media company Sky Channel to distribute the NFL Network and NFL RedZone to over 4,400 venues in the country. TAB the now the ‘exclusive official wagering partner’ of the NFL in Australia. Purdum notes that ‘such a designation is not yet available to bookmakers in the U.S.’
Now comes the news that the NFL has named DraftKings as the league’s first ‘daily fantasy partner’. As you’d expect given the NFL’s duplicity the deal specifically notes that ‘The DraftKings-NFL partnership does not include any promotional rights for sports betting.’
Jason Robins, Chief Executive Officer at DraftKings, is obviously pleased to have the NFL’s imprimatur:
“This is a defining moment in the industry, and we are thrilled to become the first daily fantasy sports partner to enter into a formal relationship with the NFL. Throughout our discussions with the League, it was evident we share a common vision around the future of fan engagement, and we are excited to continue on this unique journey with the NFL as our Official Daily Fantasy Partner.”
Renie Anderson, Chief Revenue Officer and Executive Vice President of NFL Partnerships, threw out a bunch of buzzwords about ‘fan engagement’ and ‘interactivity’:
“Daily fantasy football has been a tremendous vehicle for fans of all types to deepen their engagement with the NFL. We’re thrilled to partner with DraftKings, a clear leader in the daily fantasy space, as they continue to innovate and provide our millions of fans additional ways to interact with and enjoy the NFL.”
As is typical for this type of deal, there’s not much specificity. For now, the party line is that the NFL and DraftKings will ‘collaborate on a variety of content and product offerings that fans can engage with on the DraftKings DFS app, as well as integrations across NFL Media properties.’
The question now is how long the NFL will tiptoe around sports betting when there’s so much money to be made. Within a few years, look for the NFL to have ‘William Hill’ and ‘Bet365’ branding on jerseys and for the league to name an ‘official Russian betting partner’. The fact that their member franchises are already supping at the trough of sports betting revenues will only expedite the NFL’s full embrace. Making it easier for the NFL–they can just work from the English Premier League’s playbook for monetizing sports betting.