A glance at the NFL’s early Sunday morning programming would reveal a league that has embraced legal sports betting in its totality. From stadium names and commercials to live in-game commentary on betting action, the NFL has made a pivot toward an industry that it has long held at arm’s length. While the NFL has had a long history associated with gambling, it wasn’t until recently that the league convinced its owners that the brand would be improved and not degraded by embracing sports betting.
Christopher Halpin is the Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Growth Officer at the NFL. One of the key figures in convincing 32 NFL owners that the brand will be improved by gambling, Halpin stated, “I think we’re in a good spot now where owners very much see us taking a balanced approach.”
The NFL’s Historic Shift in Tone
The League has long been skeptical of fully embracing sports betting. It wasn’t until the legal gambling movement really took hold that the NFL began to pivot in its direction. Now, fans can see promotional media for DraftKings, Caesars, and FanDuel with officially branded NFL logos on any given Sunday. Other sportsbook operators, such as Fox Bet, Wynn, and PointsBet, are paying the NFL to become approved advertisers.
Among the many NFL teams in the league, the New England Patriots have been in favor of sports betting without the ability to fully embrace it on their own. Sports betting has not yet been approved in Massachusetts, something that nearby neighbors in New Hampshire can enjoy.
The owner of the New England Patriots is Robert Kraft. Historically known for his sports savvy and work building dynasties in the NFL, Kraft is looking to machinate change regarding sports betting in the league by using his own voice. Kraft stated, “The governor of New Hampshire loves this situation because people are pouring over the border (…) and dropping a lot of change.”
Kraft would go on to explain that the NFL naturally lends itself to betting action and that states like Massachusetts could benefit greatly from embracing it. Kraft pointed to the 40-second breaks that are common in the NFL, highlighting how they’d make ideal moments for in-game prop bets and parlays. Robert Kraft went on to say, “I think our game (…) is made for prop betting and all kinds of interactivity and gaming opportunities.”
Lobbying Beacon Hill Legislators
Jonathan Nabavi is the VP of Public Policy and Government Affairs for the NFL and, as such, has been involved deeply in gambling legislation regarding the sport. As the Patriots continue to lobby legislators to legalize sports betting, Nabavi puts his focus on protecting the integrity of the game. Nabavi said, “We’re really trying to protect our product, the integrity of the game, and make sure there are principles in place.”
As a result of Nabavi’s stance and the NFL’s commitment toward protecting its reputation, expect any shift toward in-game gambling to be a slow one. The NFL currently only allows six betting ads per game and does not want to see that number increase. Nabavi would go on to say, “You’ll continue to see it as limited.”
While Massachusetts will have to wait for official legalization to hit its borders, the Patriots have already put their money where their mouth is with several in-stadium gambling endorsements. Gillette Stadium features the DraftKings Fantasy Sports Zone as well as the Encore Boston Harbor Zone.
In New Orleans, the Saints would brand their arena as the Caesars Superdome through a 20-year deal worth more than $138 million. With so much money on the line and a fandom rabidly appreciative of sports betting, expect the NFL’s adoption process to continue steadily going forward.
For more recent news on Robert Kraft visit: https://www.bostonglobe.com/2021/09/21/arts/rolling-stones-perform-private-party-hosted-by-robert-kraft-gillette-stadium/