On Wednesday, DraftKings announced that it had signed deals to become both a Daily Fantasy Sports Partner and Authorized Gaming Operator of the XFL, which kicks off its inaugural season on Saturday, February 8.
The deals will allow DraftKings the freedom to use XFL league and team logos and player imagery on its website and in its marketing pitches to DFS players and sports bettors who would otherwise be looking at a long football drought following last Sunday’s Super Bowl.
DraftKings chief business officer Ezra Kucharz predicted that his company’s customers will welcome the XFL’s offering, which he claimed was an “innovative, fan-first league.” XFL president Jeffrey Pollack dutifully returned the favor, calling DraftKings “a leader in this space” and predicted that the tie-up would “broaden our reach and introduce our new league.”
The XFL has a number of unique rules that it hopes will help differentiate its product from the National Football League, but one of the biggest changes for viewers at home will be the incorporation of betting odds into XFL broadcasts on Fox Sports and ABC/ESPN and no NFL-style prohibition on play-by-play announcers discussing gambling options while the game is underway.
Front Office Sports quoted ESPN’s senior VP of production Lee Fitting saying “the over/under and point spread will be incorporated in our on-screen dashboard for XFL games. When it’s appropriate, our announcers will also have conversations” that reference viewers’ potential betting options. Fitting added that the network aimed to “serve the viewer with this information when it feels right.”
The XFL’s Pollack said the league wants “what our fans want, and many of our fans enjoy legal betting on football.” Incorporating spreads and betting lines “will create a more robust viewing experience that deepens our fan engagement and connectivity.”
NFL announcers such as Al Michaels are notorious for making coded references to “our friends in the desert” aka Nevada whenever a last-minute score tilts the outcome to one side of a betting line. But while the NFL clearly wants to make money off betting, it remains skittish about appearing to be making money off betting, creating a void that the XFL appears only too happy to fill.