NFL Softens Toward Gambling, Clinches Caesars Casino Sponsorship

NFL warms toward gambling, selects Caesars as first Official Casino Partner as sports betting storms the US gambling space

The National Football League, which has historically avoided gambling, announced Thursday its first-ever casino partnership with gaming and hospitality giant Caesars Entertainment Corp.

Under the terms of the agreement, Caesars has become the league’s first-ever Official Casino Partner and as such, it will be able use NFL trademarks in the United States and the United Kingdom to promote its casinos and activate at key NFL events, including the NFL Draft and the Super Bowl.

The sponsorship takes effect with the start of the 2019 NFL playoffs this weekend. NFL and Caesars did not disclose many of the terms of their deal, but according to people with knowledge of the matter, it is for three years and is worth $30 million a year.

As the Official Casino Sponsor of the NFL, Caesars will have to provide football fans with “unique experiences” by using its casino properties, premier music artists, celebrity chefs, and the rest of its entertainment offerings, minus its sportsbooks.

Under the terms of the partnership, Caesars will not be able to use NFL trademarks at its sportsbooks as it only involves casino gaming and does not include “sports betting, daily fantasy sports or hotel/resorts.”

Caesars and its Las Vegas Strip properties will host elements of the 2020 NFL draft, the league said in a Thursday press release announcing the sponsorship. The casino operator has already established relationships with seven NFL franchises ahead of and over the course of the 2018 season.

NFL Warming Toward Gambling

As mentioned earlier, the NFL has avoided any relations whatsoever with gambling-oriented businesses for decades. However, last year’s annulment of the long-standing federal ban on sports betting and the subsequent legalization of the practice in multiple states seems to have prompted a change in the league’s attitudes toward gambling.

First indications that the NFL has softened toward gambling arrived when the league gave the nod to the Oakland Raiders’ relocation to Las Vegas, a place primarily associated with its casino industry. Another major step toward embracing gambling was made when the league announced that the 2020 draft would take place in Las Vegas.

The NFL introduced surprising changes in its advertising policies allowing franchises to pen sponsorship deals with casino operators as long as those sponsorships did not involve advertising at sportsbooks and any other direct relation with the nation’s regulated sports betting industry.

Unlike the NFL, America’s other three major sports leagues have taken a more liberal approach when it comes to gambling sponsorship deals. The NBA, NHL, and MLB have each signed deals with Caesars’ Las Vegas archrival MGM Resorts International, and all three deals have been more focused on sports betting. For instance, MGM’s sportsbooks will be able to use official league data from its league partners to boost its sports betting business. NFL’s deal with Caesars does not include official league data sharing.

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