NFL Approves Casinos with Sportsbooks as Team Sponsors

A committee of NFL owners has reportedly given NFL teams the green light to grant sponsorship rights to casinos with sportsbooks.

Teams will not be allowed to advertise sportsbooks or betting sites directly, but the rules change does relax a longstanding stance that prohibited teams from associating with casinos that also offered sports betting in Las Vegas.

According to SportsBusiness Daily, a “team source” said the rules change was announced during a conference call on Monday. The report also claims NFL teams and casinos will be permitted to use one another’s logos in their advertising and promotions.

Furthermore, the rules change will allow casinos and fantasy sports sites that operate sportsbooks to advertise during pre and post-game coverage and during preseason game telecasts.

Teams will be able to accept compensation from casinos and fantasy operators for advertising, but will be prohibited from participating in revenue share deals. Teams will also be permitted sell naming rights to their stadiums.

NFL Ever So Slowly Cozying up to Sports Betting

While this is a significant change, it’s not completely uncharted territory for the NFL. Teams have already managed to strike deals with casinos in certain ways such as naming parts of stadiums after casinos.

For example, the Detroit Lions have had the MGM Grand Detroit Tunnel Club since 2015. It is described as “a luxury lounge offering at Ford Field that will provide members with an exclusive premium experience during Lions home games.”

The NFL has long maintained a complicated relationship with gambling. On one hand, the NFL was one of the pro sports leagues that fought New Jersey’s effort to legalize sports betting every step of the way.

On the other hand, the NFL has also been preparing itself for the day when sports betting would become legal outside Nevada. In the lead up to the Supreme Court decision ending the sports betting prohibition, the NFL and owners were already discussing “prospects and potential” should the Supreme Court kill PASPA.

That was an important story at the time because prior to that, the NFL really only discussed sports betting in terms of the potential negative effects of legalization. Looking back at this, it appears the NFL has been attempting to thread the needle between protecting the integrity of the game with not missing out on any lucrative opportunities.

The daily fantasy sports boom may have also contributed to the NFL’s slow pivot. Back during the height of the fantasy sports boom around 2014 through 2015, individual teams struck a number of advertising deals with fantasy sports operators. FanDuel, for example, struck advertising deals with nearly half of NFL teams.

Fantasy sports is not quite the same thing as sports betting, but that was still perhaps a preview of things to come. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had an awkward time explaining the leagues’ stance on daily fantasy sports early on, but eventually the league found ways to partner with operators and capitalize on the opportunity.

Now that sports betting seems to be on the verge of going mainstream, the NFL is slowly changing away from painting sports betting as a bad thing and looking at ways to – if not embrace the activity – to at least acknowledge that it’s happening and to make the best of it.

It’s almost a certainty that other sports leagues are fine tuning their own positions on sports betting. The NBA has taken a similar path which saw it move all the way from suing New Jersey over the state’s sports betting legalization law to accepting MGM Resorts International as its “official gaming partner.”

Now that five states have passed laws to legalize sports betting, the pro sports leagues are wise to acknowledge that the landscape has changed forever. It is highly unlikely this genie can be put back in the bottle. Sports betting is out there and even if it’s not what the leagues wanted, it does offer vast opportunity.