Caesars Entertainment named NFL’s first Official Casino Sponsor

The National Football League has selected casino operator Caesars Entertainment Corporation (CEC) as its first official gaming industry sponsor.

On Thursday, the NFL announced that CEC would become its “first ever Official Casino Sponsor” effective with this weekend’s start of the 2019 NFL playoffs. The NFL said the ‘multi-year” pact was intended to offer “unique experiences” to football fans through CEC’s “casino properties, celebrity chefs, premier music artists and a wide range of entertainment elements.”

Caesars will now have the “exclusive right” to use NFL trademarks in the US and the UK “to promote Caesars casino properties and activate at key NFL events including the Super Bowl and NFL Draft.” This year’s draft will be held in Las Vegas and some of CEC’s Vegas properties will host “elements” of the draft.

The announcement notes that Caesars has “relationships” with eight NFL teams – although it lists only seven team names – including the Oakland Raiders, for whose new Las Vegas home stadium CEC has become a founding partner.

However, the NFL’s official announcement specifies that that both its new deal with CEC and the individual team partnerships “are for the Casino category only and do not include sports betting, daily fantasy or hotels/resorts.” And unlike other deals recently signed between North American sports leagues and casino operators, the NFL-CEC deal includes no access to exclusive league data for wagering purposes.

CEC is no slouch in the sports betting department, and Wednesday saw the company announce a prospective betting tie-up in upstate New York with the Oneida Indian Nation’s three casinos.

The NFL has long been the most vocal US sports league opposing the legalization of sports betting, but the league lost that fight when the US Supreme Court struck down the federal betting ban last spring. And despite the NFL’s caveats, it’s hard not to see its new CEC partnership as the first step towards the inevitable embrace of legal wagering, once the NFL brass figures out the least graceless way of performing this moral reversal.

Last September, the NFL relaxed its longstanding prohibition on its clubs signing any gaming-related deals, leading to a flurry of new casino partnerships. The New York Jets went one further in October, signing a deal with 888 Holdings, making the team the first to partner with an exclusively online gambling operator that also offers sports betting in New Jersey.