The NFL has signed its first league-wide sponsorship deal with a gambling company. This morning, the NFL announced it has designated Caesars Entertainment as the Official Casino Sponsor of the NFL. The agreement will take effect in time for the Wild Card round of the 2019 Playoffs this weekend.
In a press release issued on Thursday, Caesars Entertainment described the deal as a multi-year partnership that will involve “Caesars providing unique experiences for NFL fans by using its casino properties, celebrity chefs, premier music artists and a wide range of entertainment elements.”
Additionally, Caesars will gain the “exclusive right” to use NFL trademarks in the USA and UK as it promotes its casino properties. Caesars will also be invited to make appearances at key NFL events, including the Super Bowl and NFL Draft.
Renie Anderson, Senior VP of NFL Partnerships, Sponsorship and Consumer Products, said this in a statement:
“We couldn’t be more excited to work with one of the world’s largest gaming and entertainment companies. Combining the NFL with Caesars’ expertise in world class entertainment will provide our fans unique experiences both here in the United States and abroad.”
And here’s Caesars Entertainment President and CEO Mark Frissora on the deal:
“All of us at Caesars Entertainment are thrilled to be the first-ever casino partner of the NFL, the most prominent sports league in North America. Combining the league’s 180 million fans with our 55 million Total Rewards loyalty program members will expose millions of people to the exclusive and exciting year-round opportunities at our properties.”
The press release also noted that in addition to this league-wide deal, seven NFL teams have individual agreements with Caesars Entertainment itself or through casinos owned and operated by Caesars:
- Indianapolis Colts: Longstanding partnership with Caesars via Indiana Grand Racing & Casino in Shelbyville and Harrah’s Hoosier Park Racing & Casino in Anderson.
- Atlanta Falcons: Caesars partnered with the Falcons’ Mercedes-Benz Stadium in 2017 through Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort in Cherokee, NC and Harrah’s Cherokee River Valley Casino & Hotel in Murphy, NC.
- Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens and Horseshoe Casino Baltimore reached a sponsorship and marketing agreement last October.
- Chicago Bears: No details released
- New Orleans Saints: The Saints and Caesars Entertainment formed a marketing relationship last month through Harrah’s New Orleans
- Las Vegas Raiders: Caesars Entertainment signed a 15-year partnership with the Las Vegas Raiders beginning in 2020.
- Philadelphia Eagles: No details released
Some of these agreements come as a surprise to us with no official announcement and several date from before the NFL’s decision to relax its rules concerning team partnerships with casinos. Agreements before the decision were somewhat of a rarity, but NFL teams did have authorization to form agreements with casinos if those casinos also did not operate sportsbooks.
Now, NFL teams are free to partner with casinos that do operate sportsbooks, although those agreements preclude teams from participating in revenue-sharing agreements with casinos.
Deal Does Not Cover Sports Betting or Fantasy Sports
Caesars Entertainment and the league made it clear that neither this agreement nor the team-specific deals directly involve NFL betting:
“These partnerships, along with the new League deal, are for the Casino category only and do not include sports betting, daily fantasy or hotels/resorts.”
The NFL has a fine needle to thread now that the Supreme Court has overturned the federal sports betting prohibition. While the NFL has traditionally insisted on keeping an arm’s length distance between itself and sports betting, $30 million a year for three years from Caesars does a lot of talking, too
Although this deal stays clear of obvious sports betting language, it’s probably no coincidence that the first league-wide deal between the NFL and a gambling company came just months after the end of the sports betting prohibition.
Even without sports betting in play, Caesars-owned sportsbooks stand to benefit from the increased name visibility alone. Caesars Entertainment already operates casinos and sportsbooks across the US, including in multiple states that have already legalized sports betting. That’s in addition to Caesars Online in New Jersey, which can easily expand its operations to other states as legislation permits.
This announcement comes a day after Caesars announced its intent to enter the New York sports betting market in partnership with three casinos operated by Oneida Indian Nation. Caesars Entertainment is making big moves lately and will be one to watch in 2019 and beyond.