Sep 4, 2019 - Sports

The NFL's slow embrace of sports betting

A wall of NFL prop bets

Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The NFL is embracing sports betting this season in ways that it never would before the Supreme Court legalized the activity across the nation in 2018.

Why it matters: Last September, the NFL called for Congress to step in and regulate legalized sports betting. This September, the NFL is opening its season with a full-fledged casino partner (Caesars) and an official data distributor (Sportradar) for the first time ever.

The big picture: The stark change in the league's positioning isn't coincidental. Sports betting is progressing across the country whether the NFL is ready or not.

  • The timing: 13 states have legalized sports betting in 15 months with 6 NFL teams (Colts, Steelers, Eagles, Bills, Giants, Jets) playing in those states.
  • The league is projected to make $2.3 billion annually from sports betting, per the American Gaming Association.
  • "The NFL has typically been a little more cautious than some of the other leagues, but I think they recognize what sports betting means in terms of fan engagement," Bill Miller, AGA president, says.

The other side: The NFL's picture isn't quite as rosy, the New York Times reports.

You can’t even predict which states will legalize when and under what constructs, and what the U.S. sports book market will look like, or the advertising market.
— NFL executive Christopher Halpin, per NYT

The bottom line: The NFL is embracing sports betting, but we still don't know exactly how much the league wants it as part of its future. As the market stabilizes, that picture will become clearer.

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