The About Face for United States Professional Sports and Gambling
As recently as four years ago, most professional sports leagues and organizations were still fearful of the effect of gambling on the competitive integrity of their competitions, with the NFL one the most vocal critics despite some of their behavior, such as the emphasis on injury reports that may have indicated the opposite. The switch in sentiment turned primarily following the Supreme Court's 2018 ruling that struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act which had prohibited sports betting everywhere but Nevada.
Since then, at least 30 states now allow some form of wagering on sports and the activity has gone from being frowned upon to an accepted part of the athletic landscape. The growing popularity has lifted many online sportsbooks, where sports bettors can go to find Vegas NFL odds and place wagers on all top sporting events.
Shortly after the Supreme Court decision, sports organizations and teams began to strike what are primarily marketing deals with sportsbook operators. The NFL, NBA, NHL, Major League Baseball and the PGA Tour have all entered into arrangements with multiple wagering providers while many teams have also partnered with sportsbooks in a variety of ways.
Arena and Stadium Based Sportsbooks
One of the most exciting trends, especially for fans who attend games and matches, is the growth in sportsbooks opening locations in stadiums and arenas as part of partnership deals with individual teams. The ability for team and venue owners to enter into such arrangements are dictated by the legislation that was passed and approved in each specific state or jurisdiction.
Some states, such as Arizona, allow sportsbooks to operate in places like restaurants, casinos and sports venues, while many states prohibit the practice, so it totally depends on individual jurisdictional regulations. Franchises in states that allow venue based sportsbooks will most likely move forward with including them in their stadiums and arenas, with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Washington Wizards great examples of the future of the trend.
The NFL is Leading the Way
Ironically, for the league that was most public in its opposition to sports betting, NFL franchises have been the most aggressive in pursuing and entering into what are primarily non-exclusive, marketing oriented agreements with sportsbook operators. Currently, at least 20 franchises have some type of relationship with companies that offer wagering on sports, with many sure to follow as more states move to approve sports betting.
The NHL is next on the list, with nine teams entering into agreements with sportsbooks or casinos to jointly promote the franchises and the gambling venue. All of the teams that have developed these arrangements are in the United States, as Canadian laws differ from those south of the border. This will eventually limit the expansion of gambling related marketing deals in the league.
NBA franchises have also been active, as the Washington Wizards along with the NHL Washington Capitals teaming up with the Capital One Arena, all of which are part of the same ownership group, to allow the first venue based sportsbook in the country. Seven other NBA franchises also have agreements with online and retail based sports wagering entities.
Despite the move by the Arizona Diamondbacks, Major League Baseball's franchises have lagged behind the other Big Four sports leagues in aggressively seeking partnerships or sponsorship deals with sportsbooks and casinos. It's unclear why, but possibly the gambling issues of the past, including the Black Sox scandal and Pete Rose's banishment from the sport may be having an impact.
Although most of the deals that have been announced include teams in states that have legalized sports betting, there are exceptions such as the Dallas Cowboys, Los Angeles Chargers/Rams and the Boston Red Sox, among others, that are located in or near states that either offer sports betting or commercial and tribal casinos.