For years, the National Football League has taken a clear stance against gambling practices, banning the promotion of casino and sportsbook partnerships throughout the league. Over the years, it seems, this stance has given way, as a number of partnerships have been accepted and adopted by the league. Now, the NFL appears to be shifting their stance entirely, as they consider casino and sportsbook sponsors, including betting lounges in some stadiums. The decision to introduce these lounges may add to the confusion surrounding the relationship between the NFL and gambling practices, as these lounges clearly promote sports betting but will not offer physical bet-taking of any kind.
NFL’s Love Hate Relationship with Gambling
Like many professional sports leagues in the United States, the NFL has established clear rules and regulations against sports betting for anyone who works in the league. This includes players, coaches, officials, and a number of other professionals. The looming concerns surrounding sports betting is the preservation of the integrity of the game and the ability to ensure that each contest is played fairly.
Despite these concerns, the line between legal sports betting and illegal sports betting have become increasingly more blurred. Nearly 60 million people play fantasy sports in the United States, and 80 percent are playing fantasy football. Whether or not these fantasy leagues or daily fantasy contests constitute “gambling” under the league’s definition has been a point of contention for many. While NFL players are banned from sports betting, they are allowed to partake in fantasy sports activities, as long as they don’t accept winnings of $250 or more. To add to the confusion, the NFL went as far to shut down a 2015 fantasy football convention in Las Vegas, which was set to be headlined by quarterback Tony Romo.
In addition to the budding fantasy sports industry, the challenge in recent years has come from states passing new legislation to make sports betting legal and more accessible. With this legalization, the industry has boomed making it an attractive opportunity to bring in new revenue. In 2016, professional leagues for other sports in the United States began making deals with fantasy sports leaders like DraftKings and FanDuel. At this point, the NFL allowed individual teams to make deals if they chose to do so but didn’t enter a league-wide fantasy sports deal until 2019. Now, the NFL is taking the next step and considering new deals with casinos and sportsbooks throughout the nation for the 2020 season.
NFL and Gambling in 2020
Since the US Supreme Court’s 2018 decision to lift the ban on sports betting, 14 states have established some form of sports betting legislation, while many more states have sports betting legislation in the works. The NFL has already made small strides to embrace some of the revenue opportunities that come with this new legislation, including adopting Caesars as the league’s official casino partner and DraftKings as the official fantasy sports providers. The New England Patriots, Dallas Cowboys, and Kansas City Chiefs all have their own DraftKings fantasy sports lounges in their respective stadiums, which are very similar to the newly proposed lounges for the 2020 season.
Any team with legal sports betting in their state has the option of introducing a betting lounge within their stadium, as long as they are doing so with a casino or sportsbook that is licensed within their state. The lounges themselves will not offer betting windows or any physical bet-taking, but they will include signage from the casino or sportsbook sponsor, which will show available odds and bets. The sponsor casino or sportsbook may also use these lounges to sign up customers. The lounges will be located in the upper bowl of the stadium and will essentially offer a designated area for mobile sports betting from phones or other mobile devices.
While this seems like a large shift in thinking from the NFL, the emphasis from the league has been on the fact that no physical betting windows will be present in these lounges; any physical betting window will still be prohibited by the league. Representatives of the league feel that limiting these lounges to the upper bowl of the stadium and offering sports betting only through mobile devices will help mitigate any issues that could arise from underage betting or advertising to minors. The decision to introduce these lounges opens up a new opportunity for revenue through sponsorships for the NFL, while casinos and sportsbooks will also be enticed to become the official betting partner of their local NFL team.