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The NFL’s new game: embrace betting ads, watch the money pour in

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Betting has long been a part of the National Football League’s DNA. Two of its founding fathers, Art Rooney and Tim Mara, were gamblers.

Rooney funded the Pittsburgh Steelers’ early years with a small fortune won at the Saratoga Race Course. His close friend, Mara, was a bookmaker and bought the New York Giants for $ 500.

For decades, however, NFL officials have gone to great lengths to distance the league from the tens of billions of dollars wagered on their games – legal in Las Vegas, but also offshore sports betting, office and bar pools, and illegal bookmakers. The NFL supported the Unlawful Internet Gambling Prohibition and Enforcement Act of 2006 and fought against New Jersey’s efforts to allow its casinos and racecourses to accept bets on football games.

“We’re trying to do everything we can to make sure our games aren’t betting vehicles,” Joe Browne, an NFL spokesman, told the New York Times in 2008.

“We have been accused of allowing gambling because it is good for the game’s popularity,” he added. “If that’s true, then we’ve wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars on gambling on our games.”

What the NFL once sold as principled has recently given way to a far more pragmatic one. As football betting became a multibillion dollar industry, and as state after state acted to legalize it, the NFL faced a blatant choice: continue to combat gambling in their games, or in exchange for a substantial one Accept cutback from casino marketing dollars.

And the money that the league once spent on lobbying against gambling? This season the NFL is getting it all back. And then some.

On the opening weekend, celebrities like Ben Affleck, Martin Lawrence and Jamie Foxx made commercials that aired during NFL game broadcasts and placed bets just a click away with a WynnBET, DraftKings, FanDuel or BetMGM account. The NFL Network added betting lines to its ticker for the first time.

Belated or not, the NFL’s acceptance of gambling is, well, lucrative. League and industry experts expect the revenue of the NFL and its teams from gambling companies to be several hundred million dollars this season.

“This will represent more than $ 1 billion in opportunity for the league and our clubs over the next 10 years,” said Christopher Halpin, NFL chief strategy and growth officer

Just over three years after the Supreme Court overturned federal law that banned sports betting in most states, sports betting companies are meeting an eager audience. GeoComply Solutions, a company that uses geolocation to confirm online gamblers are doing so from places where wagering is legal, said it processed 58.2 million transactions in the United States on the opening weekend of the NFL, more than double what it handled during the same weekend last season.

“We expected high numbers of units, but what we saw still surprised us,” says Lindsay Slader, Managing Director of GeoComply based in Canada. “Demand in new markets like Arizona shows that consumers have been waiting a long time for the opportunity to legally place a sports bet.”

The company said the bets came from 18 states and the District of Columbia. More states are likely to join soon.

New York has approved online betting and is in the process of determining which operators can accept bets. And sports betting moves are being considered in densely populated states like California, Texas and Florida, where sports betting providers are spending a lot of money to gain a foothold.

“You have to look at the price,” said Craig Billings, CEO of Wynn Interactive. “I think this will be the same market size as the US commercial casino industry, $ 40 billion or more annually.”

Because of this, he hired Affleck to direct and star alongside Shaquille O’Neal in a commercial, and his company plans to spend more than $ 100 million on advertising throughout the NFL season.

“It’s important to be part of the in-game broadcast – it’s our favorite sport with a core audience of early adopters who made offshore bets,” said Billings. “It’s a rifle shot that you have to take.”

WynnBET is hardly alone.

As of September 9 of this year, DraftKings’ spending on national television advertising had increased by 98 percent compared to the same period last year, while FanDuel’s spending more than doubled according to estimates by research company iSpot.TV.

Overall, gambling companies spent $ 7.4 million on advertising in the first week of prime time games, 9 percent more than last year’s opening games on Thursday, Sunday and Monday, according to estimates from EDO, a platform measuring TV -Advertising.

“The dollars are starting to add up,” said John Bogusz, executive vice president of Sports Sales and Marketing at CBS Sports.

The network saw an increase in advertising interest in NFL shows this year. Bogusz attributed “a good part” of the growth to sports betting advertising.

“Overall, volume has increased for all advertisers, but that has also helped,” he said. “I think it will keep growing.”

Dan Lovinger, NBC Sports Group’s executive vice president of advertising sales, said on a conference call that the surge in sports betting “is reminiscent of the fantasy category opening.”

In 2015, FanDuel and DraftKings spent millions flooding the airwaves with commercials to attract larger audiences to daily fantasy games where fans pay an entry fee to put together squads of real soccer players to battle against squads of other fantasy Line up players.

The flash worked. Somehow.

The campaigns drew customers and regulators alike, leading to complaints from viewers who grew tired of the repetitive advertising. Both companies spent fortunes on lawyers and lobbyists and went unscathed to focus on sports betting.

The average actual game activity during a three hour broadcast of an NFL game is approximately 11 minutes. Halpin said the league’s internal investigation showed that among fans ages 21 and older, about 20 percent were frequent sports bettors, who were mostly young and male, and that another 20 percent – mostly women over 55 – were “active Rejecting “were.

To bridge that sharp divide and win over those in the middle, the NFL decided to limit sports betting ads to one per quarter along with a prelude and half-time spot – a total of six per broadcast.

Talking directly about odds and spreads has also been largely avoided during the largest NFL game broadcasts.

“We have to avoid oversaturation of the game with sports betting talks or risk alienating the fans,” said Halpin. “My mom loves her NFL, but she doesn’t want gambling talk.”

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