It’s information overload everywhere, and there’s not time enough to sleep and eat and stay fully apprised of what’s happening on this crazy blue dot of ours (two out of three ain’t bad). Here’s the weekend (or fashionably late) Sports Handle item, “Get a Grip,” recapping the week’s top US sports betting stories, highlighting some fresh news, and rounding up key stories. Also check out this week’s Wild World of Gambling at US Bets.
The NFL fully embraces sports betting, sportsbooks
— NFL (@NFL) April 15, 2021
On the pendulum of reactions, it’s likelier that observers understated than overstated the magnitude of this week’s announcement that the NFL tapped its first three official, full-fledged sports betting partners. They are Caesars Entertainment (owner of William Hill sportsbook), DraftKings, and FanDuel. They become “exclusive” partners of the NFL, with each of them gaining common benefits but also a unique designation or privilege apiece. Paying the U.S.’s premier league a combined $1 billion over roughly four years for the partnership, that seems fair.
It’s a big deal, but the fact that these deals came to fruition should surprise exactly nobody. The foundation was laid in the longstanding practice of injury reporting, and much more recently, an increasing recognition that the moment was coming and that NFL owners ought to be prepared. Here’s a few earlier articles we published on the final stepping stones:
Sources: The owners were presented with the findings of a previously secret study on gambling and the patterns of behavior associated with it. They received an update on technology and made sure the league is ready in case it is legalized.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 27, 2018
As most of you know, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the NFL-sponsored 1992 federal ban on full-fledged sports betting outside Nevada on May 14, 2018. Even before the high court ruled, the league had taken quiet but incremental steps toward this moment. They include Jerry Jones and Robert Kraft’s investments in … DraftKings in 2015 when the company was not publicly traded nor operating a sportsbook online or in the flesh.
But the NFL whiplash scale does deconstruct with this week’s development. Here is but one of the many ways that former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and current Commish Roger Goodell framed the horrors of legal sports gambling over the past quarter century:
“State-sponsorship of sports gambling threatens to confuse fans into believing that the NFL supports sports gambling, thereby allowing casino operators and other sports-betting operations to trade unfairly on the NFL’s goodwill and image of fairness,” wrote Goodell on July 29, 2009. “Because of the threat that sports gambling poses to the goodwill and integrity of NFL [f]ootball, and to the fundamental bond of loyalty and devotion between fans and teams that the league seeks to maintain, the NFL has repeatedly and consistently been a leading opponent of legalized sports gambling.”
The league purported to believe what it did for so long because it thought it was best for business. Times change.
That said, let us not forget that the NFL hypocritically, knowingly, and falsely perpetuated the bogus notion that sports gambling on NFL games was bad for the league, its integrity, and the shield’s bottom line. The NFL persistently blocked progress, business, and adult enjoyment through its lobbying assaults on Congress, depositions, and repeated costly legal battles against Delaware and New Jersey in particular (and the taxpayers). Water under the bridge? Sure, no benefit in holding a grudge, but the water was polluted.
The sportsbook deals sung the sound inevitability, as Agent Smith once put it in The Matrix. The NFL only sees in big numbers, not binary, and continues to grow the pie however it can. From March 2018:
What kind of biz opp is there for the NFL in legalized sports gambling is up for debate. Chiefs CEO Clark Hunt told me he believes it’ll be in growing the game in new frontiers like China. Another exec said he thinks it’s how Roger Goodell can get to $25 billion in revenue.
— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) March 27, 2018
Welcome Arizona to ranks of the legalized
Arizona lawmakers, tribal leaders, and stakeholders bulldozed the impasse that had stalled progress on sports betting and DFS legalization since February, at which time the House advanced a bill to get with the times. After renewed discussions, Senate bill sponsor T.J. Shope said he had the vote and the votes indeed materialized when the upper chamber passed it late Monday night. Gov. Doug Ducey made it official Thursday.
According to the law, there will be up to 20 online sportsbooks licensed in the desert and up to 20 brick-and-mortar shops at pro sports arenas and tribal casinos. The Arizona market will be one of the most compelling to watch because there’s currently no daily fantasy sports operators active in the state (legally or in the gray area, e.g. Illinois), meaning that DraftKings and FanDuel will not enter the race armed with a database of DFS players that includes likely sports bettors plus sports bettors already active in illegal markets.
In other words, the closest thing we’ll have seen to a blank slate so far in a U.S. jurisdiction to launch sports betting post-PASPA. FanDuel didn’t waited long to get started, though: on Thursday it formally announced a deal to partner in sports betting with the Phoenix Suns and build a sportsbook in the arena.
While sports betting is still on its way to legalization in Connecticut, state lawmakers and the Connecticut Lottery made moves this week to push the process along. Lawmakers settled on language for multiple bills related to sports wagering, iGaming, iKeno, and iLottery, making some bill substitutes. Presumably, the new language in the bills means they will show up on the Public Safety and Security Joint Committee sooner than later — a necessity if sports wagering is to launch by NFL season, as both lawmakers and tribal leaders have said they are aiming for.
The lottery, which will be able to have its own digital platform, as well as naming up to 15 retail locations, put out a Request for Qualifications for an operating partner earlier this week. DraftKings, which already has a deal with the Mashantucket Pequots (Foxwoods Casino) to run its digital platform likely won’t be in the running, but Kambi, which partnered with the Mohegans (Mohegan Sun) potentially could apply. Should Kambi win the bid, Connecticut bettors would then be left with only two digital options rather than the projected three, although DraftKings is expected to move to an SB Tech-crafted platform later this year.
It’s unclear whether or not Mohegan Sun will move forward with their own brand and Kambi running the back end or if it will partner with a national brand. A lottery deal is another way into the market for operators. The RFQ was put out on April 12, submissions are due April 23, and the lottery expects to select a “successful proposal” by May 17 and have a contract signed by June 11. In the RFQ timeline, the lottery points to a Sept. 6 go live date.
— Jill R. Dorson
Tulalips, Washington State make compact deal
The Tulalip Tribes of Washington became the first to reach a new Class III gaming compact that includes sports wagering with the state. The Washington State Gaming Commission (WSGC) announced the tentative deal on April 16, and it must now get approval from the state legislature, be voted on by the WSGC, and be signed off on by the U.S. Dept. of the Interior. The WSGC will vote at its June 10 meeting.
According to a press release from the WSGC, it is aiming to be able to launch sports betting by the start of the NFL season.
The Washington State Legislature approved tribal-only retail sports betting in March 2020, and since then the WSGC has been developing rules and has opened a “pre-licensing investigation” process for potential operators. The state’s tribes have also been working with Gov. Jay Inslee’s office to rework their pacts to include sports betting.
“We believe that this compact amendment is a thoughtful approach by the Tribe and State that ensures sports wagering will be conducted with the highest integrity while protecting the public by keeping gambling legal and honest,” said Washington State Gambling Commission Chair Bud Sizemore. “There is still a lot of work before the first regulated sportsbook opens in our state, and I’m hopeful sports wagering can launch before the NFL regular season begins.”
— Jill R. Dorson
More big stories from our network
And as promised, special guest @PeteRose_14 joins the show!
— US Bets (@US_Bets) April 15, 2021
More of the most important, interesting stories
ICYMI: Daily Wager Special was ESPN's 1st alternate presentation fueled fully by sports betting content
Available on demand for a limited time
NBA footage courtesy of NBA Entertainment pic.twitter.com/8TFefJxuso
— ESPN PR (@ESPNPR) April 16, 2021
BLACK IS BLACK: Economics and politics of sports betting black market [GGB News]
SEMINOLES SAY NO: On Tuesday, the tribe rejected the governor’s latest offer. [TB Tribune]
MEANWHILE: Florida House committee approves revamped pari-mutuel bill. [WJCT]
HEAD START Maryland’s Live! To debut its sports lounge April 29. [WTOP]
GAVEL: Judge blocks state hearing on TN sportsbook’s status [AP]
BEER & PARLAY: Stadiums augment newly enacted MD and AZ betting markets [CDC Gaming]
ONE MORE ON RADAR Sportradar and TwinSpires join forces. [CDC Gaming]
WHY TEXAS SHOULD SAY YES: Lawmakers lay out argument for legal sports betting. [CallerTimes]
INTEL: UNLV report focuses on harm of sports-wagering ads, illegal sites [LV-RJ]
BIG CHANGE: College basketball players who transfer no longer have to sit a year. [NYT]
Announcement: After 4 years of existence without a podcast, we're proud to present the Sports Handle podcast"Get A Grip.” Below is a brief show intro. 🎶
— Sports Handle (@sports_handle) April 14, 2021
Have a good weekend, folks.
Any mock draft without the Chuck Wagon in its top 10 has zero credibility. pic.twitter.com/jAIL8Zb0zB
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) April 16, 2021