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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.

Go deeper: Sports leagues struggle to deal with data

Go deeper

Kendall Baker, author of Sports
Jan 6, 2021 - Economy & Business

The top 15 most-watched U.S. broadcasts of 2020

Data: Nielsen; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

The most important 30-day stretch of the year for the television industry begins this weekend on the gridiron.

Why it matters: The 14 most-watched U.S. TV broadcasts of 2021 could take place over the next month: 13 NFL playoff games (up from 11 due to expansion) and Monday's College Football Playoff National Championship.

Updated 3 hours ago - Health

California surpasses 50,000 COVID-19 deaths

A man prepares a funeral arrangement in in Los Angeles, California, Feb. 12. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

California's death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 50,000 on Wednesday, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: It's the first state to record more than 50,000 deaths from the coronavirus.

4 hours ago - Technology

Facebook bans Myanmar military

A protester holds a placard with a three-finger salute in front of a military tank parked aside the street in front of the Central Bank building during a demonstration in Yangon, Myanmar. Photo by Aung Kyaw Htet/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Facebook said on Wednesday it would ban the rest of the Myanmar military from its platform.

The big picture: It comes some three weeks after the military overthrew the civilian government in a coup and detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi, causing massive protests to erupt throughout the country. Military leaders have been using internet blackouts to try to maintain power in light of the coup.