The National Football League, which long opposed any connection to legalized sports betting, announced Thursday its first-ever partnership with three of the largest sportsbook operators in the U.S. – Caesars Entertainment, DraftKings, and FanDuel.
Through the agreement, the gaming companies have the “exclusive ability” to utilize NFL trademarks within their sports betting operations both in retail settings and online. The sportsbook operators will also engage with fans through NFL-themed free-to-play games.
Caesars, DraftKings, and FanDuel can also integrate relevant sports betting content directly into NFL Media properties, including NFL.com and the NFL App.
Financial terms were not disclosed but ESPN’s David Purdum reported the partnerships are five-year agreements and worth just shy of $1 billion combined, according to a source familiar with the deals.
The NFL’s fervent opposition to sports betting, legal gaming, and the gaming industry in general – including the banning of Las Vegas-related advertising during telecasts of the Super Bowl – has softened over the last few years.
In March 2017, NFL owners approved the move of the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas and the team began play last season as the rebranded Las Vegas Raiders in Allegiant Stadium, a nearly $2 billion venue with views of the Las Vegas Strip. Both the NFL Draft and the Pro Bowl will be held in Las Vegas in 2022.
It’s also expected the NFL will award a Super Bowl to Las Vegas sometime this decade.
Meanwhile, the legalization of sports betting in the U.S., following a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court three years ago, changed the playing field. Currently, 22 states and Washington D.C. have legal sports betting with six additional states expected to add the activity this year.
“As the sports betting landscape has continued to evolve in the United States, we have been thoughtful with our strategy and are excited to announce three partners who share the NFL’s vision and goals,” said Renie Anderson, chief revenue officer and executive vice president of NFL Partnerships.
In a statement, the league said the companies agreed to collaborate with the NFL on intelligence sharing, advocacy efforts, and responsible gaming education.
“It is encouraging that a shared commitment to responsible gaming is part of the partnerships that the NFL announced today,” AGA Senior Vice President of Strategic Communications Casey Clark said in an email. “Consumer education is critical to the AGA’s longstanding focus on getting sports betting right, and we continue to work in partnership with operators, leagues, and teams.”
Since the court decision, sports betting operators have signed marketing deals with NFL teams to be an “official sports betting partner.” Caesars, for example, has partnerships with the Raiders, New Orleans Saints, Kansas City Chiefs, Indianapolis Colts, Baltimore Ravens, Atlanta Falcons, and Carolina Panthers, as well as ESPN.
Global Market Advisors Partner Brendan Bussmann said the NFL has evolved “considerably” since the ruling and signing deals with Caesars, DraftKings, and FanDuel highlights how all sports leagues and teams are maximizing sponsorships to drive additional revenue.
“The continued opportunity for teams and leagues is in sponsorships and fan engagement,” Bussmann said. “Let the licensed operators do what they do best and help them maximize that opportunity for them. Caesars, DraftKings, and FanDuel will be able to seize that for the NFL.”
Sports betting consultant Sara Slane said the NFL’s “groundbreaking” partnership deal was “the final piece” in the four major professional leagues’ alignment with the gaming industry.
“Given professional football is among the most bet on sports, it is no surprise the reported value of the deals,” Slane said. “The NFL’s alignment with operators underscores there is no daylight between the U.S. sports betting and professional sports industries.”
In January 2019, Las Vegas-based Caesars signed a multi-year sponsorship deal with the NFL to become the league’s initial “Official Casino Sponsor.” However, the agreement was noteworthy for the three words it didn’t include – legal sports wagering.
The focus of the agreement, coming less than a year after the Supreme Court ruling, was on the non-gaming attractions found at Caesars’ casinos.
On Thursday, Caesars CEO Tom Reeg said the company and the NFL were taking their partnership, “to the next level.”
Caesars, which as an agreement with sports betting operator William Hill US, is in the process of acquiring its United Kingdom-based parent company, betting giant William Hill, for $3.7 billion.
“Sports betting and online gaming are the next frontiers for our industry, and we are committed to being where the players are,” Reeg said in a statement. “This expanded relationship allows us to introduce new ways for fans to play alongside their favorite teams, tied into our industry-leading Caesars Rewards program.”
Caesars said it will create activities at key NFL events, including the 2022 Pro Bowl and 2022 NFL Draft in Las Vegas and Super Bowl LIX in 2025 in New Orleans.
DraftKings currently operates mobile and/or retail sports betting in 14 states and announced a deal yesterday with the PGA Tour to put a sportsbook at the TPC Scottsdale golf course in Arizona. The Boston-based company has long been the NFL’s official daily fantasy partner.
“The way fans consume sports years from now will look drastically different, and it will be due in part to forward-thinking collaborations like our expanded relationship with the NFL,” said DraftKings Chairman and CEO Jason Robins. “We share the same vision as the NFL on fan engagement and believe this agreement will lead to new innovations that will ultimately enhance both the product on the field and on the screen.”
FanDuel CEO Matt King said the company would work with the NFL on pre-game integration opportunities on the NFL Network for the seven regular-season games the network will air in 2021.
“On Superbowl Sunday we got a glimpse at how powerful the combination of the NFL’s excitement and our platform can be in delivering an enhanced fan experience,” King said. “This partnership provides our shared customers with a new level of innovation and unmatched premium content directly within our platform ultimately enhancing every gameday.”
Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.