The fear of cheating is one of the bigger reasons the NFL has done their best over the years to keep gambling as far away from their product as possible.
But since the Supreme Court of the United States ruled last year that it’s up to each individual state to decide its own stance on legalized wagering, the NFL got to experience its first season with open betting in 2018 and so far as anyone can tell, all went well.
With the exception of arguably the biggest no-call in NFL history during the NFC Championship Game (we covered it with Did Refs’ Big No-Call Cost New Orleans Saints the Super Bowl?) and a few other blatant bad calls peppered here and there, the 2018-19 NFL season went by without any major gambling-related incidents.
But now the Alliance of American Football (AAF) is completely re-inventing football gambling.
Sorry, who is the AAF?
The Alliance of American Football is the new U.S. professional football league that started playing games on February 9, 2019, created by filmmaker Charlie Ebersol.
After making the documentary, This Was the XFL for ESPN Films’ 30 for 30 series, Ebersol was convinced that the same concept would work if it actually included good football.
The AAF, which was inspired in late 2016, had its first week of games just six days after the NFL’s Super Bowl LIII, and the attendance (thousands) and television ratings (a 2.1, and that’s in a head-to-head battle with the NBA, which had a 2.0).
They AAF and the NFL both do football, but certain things they do differently for a reason.
How is the AAF different from the NFL?
The two leagues differ in four major ways, and they are:
In the NFL, teams have individual owners, whereas in the AAF, all teams are owned and operated by the league, which operates as a single entity under the name Legendary Field Exhibitions LLC.
Mainly to avoid having a players’ union that tends to get in the way of how the league pays its players and how it uses them to track data by wearing devices during game time, for example.
The NFL is made up of 32 teams in two conferences – the American Football Conference (AFC) and the National Football Conference (NFC) – each of which has four divisions (North, South, East and West) consisting of four teams.
The AAF, on the other hand, is made up of just eight teams in two conferences – the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference.
The NFL’s regular season lasts seventeen weeks and their postseason takes an additional five weeks to play, whereas the AAF has a ten-week regular season and their playoffs only take two weeks to determine a champion.
In the interest of shortening the average game time and maintaining the momentum of the game better, the AAF decided to do four major things differently than the NFL.
- No Point After Touchdowns (PATs), which are too easy to make and relatively boring to watch; instead teams have to try a 2-point conversion after every touchdown scored.
- No kickoffs, which take time and interrupt momentum; instead each team starts their drives at their own 25 yard line.
- No onside kicks are allowed, but instead teams can go for a 4th-and-long type play in an onside kick situation.
- To speed up the games, the AAF uses a shorter play clock – the NFL has a 40 second play clock and in the AAF it’s 30 seconds.
How exactly has the AAF reinvented football gambling?
Just as the NFL and the Dallas Cowboys now have an official casino (read our coverage here), so, too, does the AAF, striking a major deal with MGM as their official gambling partner, and they’ve come up with an idea that may just reinvent football gambling:
Download the app, sign up with a credit card and suddenly you can bet from the comfort of your couch and in the middle of the game.
How does mid-game betting work?
When betting on whether a certain team will win or on the over/under of the total score, in order to make it fair, the wager has to be placed before the game begins.
With the mid-game betting app, football gamblers can bet on the outcome of specific plays right before they happen in the middle of the game.
For example, on whether the next play will result in a touchdown, or who the next player to score will be or what the specific outcome of a particular play will be.
All at the touch of a button, all after the game has started, all perfectly legal.
Does the AAF reward its players accordingly?
The AAF has talked about paying players more if gamblers bet more on them.
For example, say you’re a wide receiver who a lot of gamblers tend to bet on to score the deep ball touchdown, then according to the AAF, that player will get a cut of the action.
Whether that would affect how the game is played still remains to be seen.
And how has this worked for the AAF so far?
Currently, betting through the MGM is only legal in Nevada and New Jersey, so it has had limited exposure to this point.
The overall betting scene of the first AAF week was reported as “mild at best.”
Once site claimed that the NFL Pro Bowl saw five times the betting action as Week 1 of the AAF did, so it is fair to say that the gambling competition between the two leagues is still one-sided slanting directly towards the older NFL.
Does the NFL have plans to allow mid-game football betting?
There has been zero talk of it so far, but the NFL may just be quietly watching the AAF putt first to see exactly where that unknown ball will travel.
With only eight states now that allow you to legally gamble on the NFL, we’re currently at the infancy stage of legalized football gambling in the United States, and casinos and other onsite betting locations are scrambling to put their football betting operations in play.
You can bet that the NFL will be keeping an eye on exactly how much money the AAF starts making with their mid-game betting app and everything else new that it’s doing.
Whatever of that leads to success (meaning lots of $), the NFL will eventually try to imitate, and football fans will just have to trust that none of it will ever affect the quality or veracity of the game.