Will the NFL Fully Embrace Gambling?

Feb 1, 2024

It seemed unfathomable for a professional sports league to partner with an online gambling website a decade ago, but times have rapidly changed. Sports gambling has become a part of many leagues around the world, including the NFL. However, will the NFL ever truly embrace sports gambling?

History of the NFL and Sports Betting

Opposition to fantasy and betting

Fantasy sports have been intertwined with professional sports for a long time. Fantasy football is incredibly popular around the country, and the NFL is completely fine with that. However, when Tony Romo announced the National Fantasy Football Convention in 2015, the NFL shot it down. While a member of the Dallas Cowboys, Romo announced the NFFC would take place at The Venetian resort in Las Vegas (ESPN). Over a hundred NFL players committed to appearing at the convention, and that’s when the NFL got involved.

The NFL quickly told Romo the event must be canceled due to violating rules against sports betting. The problem wasn’t that Romo was hosting a fantasy sports event - it was that he was doing it at a casino. Romo and the NFL players were upset at the decision, but the NFL stated, “Players and NFL personnel may not participate in promotional activities or other appearances at or in connection with events that are held at or sponsored by casinos” (Bleacher Report).

Although the NFL is fine with fantasy sports, sports gambling is a completely different topic. Historically, the NFL has been against sports betting. As ESPN Insider David Purdum said, “Well, the league's stance was that a broadening of sports betting - legalized sports betting would threaten the integrity of the games. They thought that it might lead to more attempts at fixing - compromising games for gambling purposes” (NPR). The last thing that the NFL wanted was for sports gambling to become a part of the game, but by 2018, the NFL had a decision to make.

Signs of embracing betting

When the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) was overturned in 2018, the NFL realized that sports betting was going to become involved with football - whether they liked it or not. In just a few years, the NFL partnered with several online sportsbooks like FanDuel and DraftKings, allowed the Raiders to relocate to Las Vegas, and even named Sin City the host of the 2024 Super Bowl.

How the NFL has welcomed gambling

NFL’s Sports Betting Partnerships and Commercials

These days, it’s hard to watch a sporting event on TV without seeing an ad for an online sportsbook. Whether it’s Jamie Foxx with BetMGM, Gronk with FanDuel, or Kevin Hart with DraftKings, each sportsbook has found famous actors or players to represent the brand while being partnered with the NFL. But sports gambling is in way more than just TV advertisements now. 

For one thing, the NFL has approved of sportsbooks being placed inside NFL stadiums. Fanatics Sportsbook has opened up inside of the Washington Commanders stadium, which means fans can bet on that game in the stadium (New York Times). There are no plans to stop that idea from happening in other places, as Chicago and Arizona have discussed plans for a sportsbook in the stadium as well.

Sports betting integrations

Sports gambling has been integrated into pregame shows, halftime reports, and even in the middle of games. If you turn on any NFL game on FOX, you will see Terry Bradshaw, Michael Strahan, Curt Menefee, Rob Gronkowski, and more discussing the spread, total, and odds of the game ahead. Plus, during the game, it’s common to see the broadcast include real-time spreads and odds from a partnered sportsbook. Sports gambling went from the NFL’s biggest enemy to being promoted during games.

The NFL meets slots

Less than a decade ago, the NFL canceled Tony Romo’s fantasy sports event because it was in a casino. Fast forward to 2021, and the NFL partnered with Aristocrat Gaming to create NFL-themed slot machines on the casino floors (CNBC). This was the first instance of a casino licensing deal with the NFL. The NFL’s deal with Aristocrat gets them into a casino game for the first time while also making a large sum of money in the process.

Roger Goodell’s view of sports betting

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has been in his role since 2006. That means he has been on both sides of the sports gambling debate. Back in 2011, Goodell was asked what threats there are to the integrity of the NFL, and he answered, “Gambling would be No. 1 on my list” (ESPN, 2). Goodell remained strongly opposed to sports gambling through 2017, when he was quoted saying, “We are not changing our position as it relates to legalized sports gambling. We still don't think it is a positive thing” (ESPN, 2).

Since then, Goodell has done a 180 on his stance. Sports gambling has been adopted into the NFL, and Goodell has been forced to adapt to the changes. In just a few weeks, Goodell will be in Sin City watching the Super Bowl.

Dangers and Risks of Betting on the NFL & Super Bowl

How to avoid Gambling Addiction when betting on the NFL

It’s important to remember that gambling addiction is a serious problem. A gambling addiction could lead to mental health and financial problems, so it’s crucial to be cautious when betting on the NFL or the Super Bowl. Set limits for yourself and never bet more than you can lose. 

What to do if you or someone you know may have a Gambling Problem

Birches Health may be the solution if you or someone you know is suffering from a sports betting addiction. Birches Health offers gambling addiction treatment that actually works. They have specialists waiting to help and offer convenient online care on your schedule. 

If you believe you or someone you know may be struggling with gambling addiction, call (833) 483-3838.

References:

Tony Romo fantasy football incident re-opens NFL's inconsistent stance on gambling - ESPN

NFL Cancels Fantasy Football Convention in Las Vegas Headed by Tony Romo | News, Scores, Highlights, Stats, and Rumors | Bleacher Report

NFL embraces legalized sports betting : NPR

An N.F.L. Stadium Brings Sports Betting Inside - The New York Times

Aristocrat unveils NFL-themed slot machines as league navigates legal gambling

NFL's evolving stance on sports betting and Las Vegas

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