It sure didn’t take long for the first NFL team to take advantage of the NFL’s relaxed rules on casino sponsorships. In the final days of August, news broke that the NFL has changed its longstanding policy prohibiting teams from reaching sponsorship agreements with casinos that have sportsbooks.

Just one week later, the Cowboys announced a deal with WinStar World Casino and Resort. The casino is located in Oklahoma about an hour-and-a-half north of Dallas and does not even have a sportsbook yet, but still this is the first partnership of its kind between an NFL team and a casino.

Details of the deal haven’t been announced, but Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said the team will hold various team functions at the casino. During the announcement, Jones said that it is “a privilege to stand shoulder to shoulder with such a prominent brand like WinStar World Casino.”

Sports betting could come to WinStar Casino in the future as some lawmakers have introduced legislation to legalize sports betting in Oklahoma. If that does happen and WinStar Casino opens a sportsbook, it will not preclude the Cowboys from continuing their relationship with the casino as it would have under prior NFL regulations.

Deal is Emblematic of Changing Attitudes on Sports Betting

As we discussed in a recent post, there was a time not all that long ago that the NFL did just about all it could to distance itself from sports betting. The NFL opposed all forms of sports betting for decades and was one of the key plaintiffs in the New Jersey sports betting case.

Things began to change when the NFL allowed teams to strike deals with fantasy sports sites a few years back and then changed again when the NFL admitted it was looking at the “prospects and potential” of legal sports betting during the run-up to the Supreme Court’s decision to rule PASPA unconstitutional.

The NFL isn’t the only league to see where this is all going. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was perhaps the first major figure associated with a pro sports league to come out in support of legalization and regulation. Back in 2014, he penned an op-ed arguing in favor of bringing the massive underground sports betting industry out from the shadows and into the light of regulation and government oversight.

Taking it even further, the United States in general is warming up to the idea of legal sports betting. A poll conducted last year, for example, found that Americans’ opinions on sports betting have completely flipped over the 25 years since PASPA was first enacted.

Where 56% of Americans disapproved of legal sports betting in 1993, 55% approved in 2017. Likewise, only 41% of Americans approved of sports betting in 1993 while 55% approved as of last year.

The growth of fantasy sports probably also played a role in changing attitudes. Last year’s sports betting survey found that 56% of fantasy players had bet on sports within the past five years and that 42% of sports bettors have played fantasy sports over that time.

A more recent poll conducted by the National Research Group earlier this year found even greater levels of support among the American public for sports betting. Some of the poll’s more interesting findings include:

  • 60% of Americans approve of sports betting
  • 42% of those who watch sports currently wager on games
  • Those who bet on sports wager an average of $82 per wager
  • 46% said they would bet more often if sports betting was legalized nationwide
  • 27% of people who do not currently bet on sports said they would like to do so if it were to be legalized where they live

Oher findings from the survey may also provide an inside look into the NFL’s change of heart. The National Research Group found that 79% of respondents said they would watch more sports live if betting on the games was legal. Furthermore, the majority of respondents chose the NFL as the sports they would most like to bet on if sports betting is legalized where they live.

A Preview of Bigger Things to Come

Right now, the US is still in the very early stages of what may become a massive sports betting advertising industry. The deal with the Cowboys and WinStar Casino is just the first of what will likely be many such sponsorships.

Optimism is running high for those who stand to make money off the growth of sports betting. Back in April, an anonymous official with an NFL team told SportsBusiness Journal that there will be “a tsunami of money for teams and TV rights holders” and that “gambling will be a top-five sponsorship category almost immediately.”

Former Youbet CEO David Goldberg put it this way to SportsBusiness Journal:

“When it becomes legal, it will be much better to be a seller of sports media and sponsorships than an actual sportsbook operator. There’s not going to be enough media and sponsorship supply to meet demand.”

We only have to look to the UK to see where the future may lay and to anticipate potential problem areas down the road. Over in the UK, sports betting sites sponsor the majority of England’s teams in the top two divisions and many a jersey is adorned with the logo of some betting site or another.

Here’s what a former Arsenal FC commercial director had to say about the prospect of sports betting advertising in American sports leagues:

“Americans are far more creative in slicing the pizza. Once the floodgates open for bookmakers in American sport, God knows, it will be awesome to behold.”

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