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Timing the beginning of the NFL’s 2020 season, the Denver Broncos announced the news of three new partnerships to bolster Colorado’s quick entry into the U.S. sports wagering market. Something that today is not all that surprising but only a few years ago would have been thought of as unheard of.
Prior to the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of PASPA (the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act), in May 2018, any alliance between an NFL football team and a gambling entity would have been judged immediately illegal by the league. Commissioner Roger Goodell led the country’s major sports league in court efforts to prohibit any type of action from taking place. Fast forward to the NFL’s season kickoff this week and it seems miraculous.
The league quietly voted in May to officially allow teams to sign sponsorship deals with gambling entities and allow sports wagering lounges in their stadiums.
The Broncos were among the first in line to aggressively take advantage of a trio of new sponsors. The first with sports wagering behemoth FanDuel, which includes significant signage in Empower Field, their home. The second pairs the team with BetMGM that features a sports betting lounge directly at the stadium. The last is with Betfred USA Sports, a long-time European gaming power. That deal will include a full sportsbook at the Saratoga Casino Black Hawk, located about 45 minutes from Denver in the Rocky Mountains.
There will be an initial caveat to the deals including fans will not be able to directly place any wagers at the stadium during games, but through an app on their cell phones. Also, signage for FanDuel will not be shown during game broadcasts.
Mac Freeman, the Broncos’ chief commercial officer, said:
There’s sports betting, there’s a daily fantasy, there are casinos, so there’s a lot of different aspects to these businesses. I think what you’ll find with us carving those first tracks through the field you’ll see other teams follow pretty quickly as states come on board with sports gambling.
Freeman also added the trio of deals with three quite different gambling outfits is a result of the Broncos that bringing order to what was sort of a chaotic environment.
“Because in the clutter just taking any deal you can get, probably no one actually gets true value out of it. So, I think we got a very favorable response from all of the partners and they were thrilled that we were going to limit these and then work hard to craft space for all of them so we could deliver real value for them,” The Biggest “No”
The Broncos were quick to comment that as the result of these three deals they will not receive any direct revenue from their fans. Always a point of contention and controversy when these types of partnerships were initially proposed.
No, we are not able to sort of participating in the actual betting volumes or revenue generated.No, this is a very classic sponsorship structure where they are paying a fee for assets that we will use to leverage their brands. So, no, there’s no share of any of the actual betting activity coming back to the team.
As a history, towards the end of 2018, the Seattle Seahawks formed a partnership with a local tribal casino. Before that, the Dallas Cowboys partnered with WinStar World Casino and Caesars partnered with the eventual Las Vegas Raiders. The New York Jets partnered with MGM and 888 Casino and the Ravens partnered with the nearby Horseshoe Baltimore. In a more recent partnership, The Philadelphia Eagles also announced a deal with Harrah’s Philadelphia at the end of 2019.
NFL league spokesman Brian McCarthy told the Associated Press the approach to the licensed sports betting has evolved as the league and teams entertain new fan engagement opportunities through commercial partnerships.
“What has not changed, however, is our relentless protection of the integrity of the game,” McCarthy added. “These new partnerships have no impact on the play on the field. We have continued to study the rapidly changing landscape and felt comfortable with clubs executing partnerships such as these.”
Hardcore NFL fans have long understood legendary play-by-play announcer Al Michael’s tongue in cheek references to sports gambling. When Michael’s kept people from going to sleep in the last two minutes of 38-7 type Monday Night or Sunday Night Football games by announcing “it’s not OVER yet”, it had a sly purpose. A reference to the wagering over/under total on the game. Michaels checked in on the recent stunning change of attitude involving the NFL and casino partnerships.
We’re all on a path to we don’t know exactly where but I’m as curious as anybody. I don’t know what the end game is here, I don’t know that anybody does. But I do think that it’s pretty fascinating that yesterday DraftKings announced that Michael Jordan is going to be part of their operation and on the board and the stock went up about 10%. It’s a fascinating dynamic that’s developing right now and I wish I could predict what’s going to happen here but clearly, everybody feels that they want a piece of the pie, of the gambling pie.
The Broncos have merely kicked off their opportunity this month to get involved within partnerships amid casino and sports wagering entities. Look for all other NFL teams to return the ball as well in their home city once given every possible opportunity.
Larry Gibbs is both a seasoned journalist and a respected online gaming industry consultant. His wry commentary & sharp analysis have appeared in numerous top gaming and sports wagering publications. He has also served as Vice President of US Gaming Services, a marketing research organization with 15 years of experience in US online wagering. He has spoken at noted gaming industry conferences including G2E, GiGSE, and NCLGS.
Email: [email protected]
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