The NFL has approved access to sportsbooks in stadiums on game days. The seemingly significant decision further conjoins two entities that have been increasingly linked as national anti-gambling laws have softened. How did the NFL get here, and how might it relate to college stadiums?
The Vote To Approve Sportsbooks in NFL Stadiums
On March 28, 2023, NFL owners approved the usage of sportsbooks in their stadiums on game days. The decision was both monumental and unsurprising — the continuation of a recent NFL trend toward embracing sports gambling.
As The New York Times‘ David Chen pointed out, only 11 years ago, the NFL stated in a deposition that sports gambling would “negatively impact our long-term relationship with our fans, negatively impact the perception of our sport across the country.”
Tuesday’s vote put a final stamp on a shift that began years ago. For example, do you remember a time when NFL halftime shows didn’t include scrolling chyrons of the best offensive players of the day, based on stats?
The rise of fantasy football certainly contributed to a greater focus on yards and touchdowns. The league and its broadcasting partners simply responded to industry demand.
The same can be said for betting, particularly as an increasing number of states legalize sports gambling.
The NFL has danced along this narrow line. Tuesday’s vote cements the relationship. The fact is, bettors could always make wagers on their phones, provided they were in a state where betting was legal. They could even bet from their stadium seats before the start of the game.
But the brick-and-mortar angle to this vote is a game-changer, as it solidifies the relationship for years and decades to come.
About half of the NFL’s franchises currently reside in states with legal sports gambling. Those teams will benefit financially. Additionally, the move might spur more states to approve sports gambling, as it should grow state revenue through the taxing of higher gambling profits from NFL teams, as well as profitable bettors.
Sportsbooks in College Stadiums?
Ironically, on the same day as the NFL owners’ vote, the U.S. gambling industry issued a ruling to “ban sportsbooks from partnering with colleges to promote sports wagering, bar payments to college and amateur athletes for using their name, image or likeness, and end the use of the terms ‘free’ or ‘risk-free’ to describe promotional bets.”
The policy shift was passed down by the American Gaming Industry, which serves as the country’s trade association for commercial gambling. Moreover, the group established strict rules in an effort to keep people under 21 years old from participating in, or viewing, sports betting advertising.
Underage gambling has been a contentious issue in political and higher education circles, as well as those governing trade associations and sports-related interest groups. Technological advancements have made it easier to pinpoint online users by age. However, there’s a unique challenge when addressing such changes on college campuses, where sometimes the student body is evenly split among “underage” and “of-age” students.
Existing sports gambling partnerships with schools like Michigan State University and the University of Colorado Boulder will expire on July 1 of this year.