Sep 4, 2019 - Sports

The NFL's slow embrace of sports betting

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

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26 million Americans will bet on Super Bowl LIV

Prop bets at Bally's Atlantic City Hotel and Casino. Photo: Wayne Parry/AP

With sports betting now legal in 14 states, the American Gaming Association estimates $6.8 billion will be bet legally and illegally on Sunday's Super Bowl between the S.F. 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs, AP's Wayne Parry reports.

The state of play: 26 million Americans plan to make a bet, up 15% from last year, per the AGA.

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Increased viewership ups the stakes for the NFL's broadcast rights

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Viewership of televised NFL games was up 5% to 16.5 million for the 2019 regular season, its second consecutive annual increase of 5%.

Why it matters: The rebound in viewership from previous two years will give the NFL higher leverage when negotiating new distribution deals with media partners.

Go deeperArrowJan 7, 2020 - Sports

League of Legends Championship Series to debut Monday night matchup

Photo: Borja B. Hojas/Getty Images

Taking a page out of the NFL's playbook, the League of Legends Championship Series — one of a handful of esports leagues built around popular game titles — will air a marquee matchup every Monday night this season.

What's happening: "Monday Night League" will start at 8pm ET and will be broadcast on the league's website, as well as YouTube and Twitch.

Go deeperArrowJan 9, 2020