The National Football League has taken its biggest step yet toward embracing – or at least profiting from – legal sports betting on its games.
On Monday, the NFL officially designated its current data partner Sportradar as the exclusive distributor of official league data for wagering purposes in jurisdictions where such formerly shameful activity is legally acceptable. Terms of the multi-year deal weren’t disclosed.
The expanded relationship will see Sportradar gain exclusive access to “real-time official play-by-play data” along with Next Gen Stats (NGS) player-tracking data. The official release doesn’t actually use the phrase in-play betting, but that’s the whole point of this new deal, ensuring bookmakers in regulated markets have the info they need to grade in-play wagers post-haste.
The NGS data will also enable bookmakers to offer more in-play markets tailored to specific athletes’ performances on the field. That could prompt some pushback from the NFL Players Association, who last year was among the player reps seeking “a seat at the table to ensure players’ rights and the integrity of our games are protected.”
The NFL has been steadily dismantling its former anti-gambling stance, including naming Caesars Entertainment as the league’s first Official Casino Sponsor in January. However, while individual teams like the New York Jets now have sponsorship deals with online betting firms, the NFL insisted at the time that the scope of its Caesars deal didn’t extend to the promotion of sports betting.
Other leagues, such as Major League Baseball, have been slightly less hypocritical regarding their betting stance, happily signing Authorized Gaming Operator pacts that involve access to proprietary data for wagering. Then again, MLB and the National Basketball Association have also threatened to order their official data providers to cut off all data supply to bookmakers who fail to sign on the dotted line.
Before New Jersey triumphed at the US Supreme Court in May 2018, the leaders of all of the major North American sports leagues each declared under oath that betting would bring about the ruination of sports integrity. Guess it’s a good thing that climate change will soon kill us all, because really, who wants to live in a world in which such anarchy holds sway?