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NFL becomes latest major US league to embrace online sports betting after inking $1billion in deals

The NFL, a longtime opponent of online sports gambling, has become the latest major US professional league to ink national endorsements in that arena, partnering with three websites on five-year deals collectively worth $1 billion.

On Thursday the NFL announced the agreements with DraftKings, FanDuel, and Caesars Entertainment, all of which will use league data and trademarks while gaining a presence on NFL.com and the official NFL phone ap. Terms were not disclosed, but a source familiar with details of the contracts has confirmed that all three deals are worth a combined $1 billion over the next five years.

Darren Rovell of The Action Network, a sports gambling website, was the first to report the value of the agreement.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell (pictured) has agreed to deals with three major sports betting websites, making his league the latest to embrace legalized sports gambling

'As the sports betting landscape has continued to evolve in the United States, we have been thoughtful with our strategy and are excited to announce three partners who share the NFL's vision and goals,' Renie Anderson, chief revenue officer and executive vice president of NFL Partnerships, said in a statement.

Leagues like the NFL traditionally opposed the legalization of sports gambling for fear of corrupting their product as illegal betting had in 1919, when gambler and racketeer Arnold Rothstein famously fixed the World Series by paying eight members of the Chicago White Sox to lose to the Cincinnati Reds.

But things have changed since 2018, when the US Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), which banned licensed sports pools in all 49 states besides Nevada.

The NBA and WNBA became the first major US leagues to partner with an online sports book in 2018, jointly signing a reported three-year deal with MGM worth $25 million. The NHL, Major League Soccer, Major League Baseball, and now the NFL, the country's most popular league, have all followed in pro basketball's path.  

Sports gambling is now legal in 21 states and Washington DC, meaning that citizens no longer have to travel to Las Vegas to bet on games, but can instead use a phone ap or website, depending on their location.

And it's that convenience that concerns groups like the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG), which says sports bettors are at higher risk of addiction.

'The rate of gambling problems among sports bettors is at least twice as high as among gamblers in general,' read an NCPG executive summary of more than 140 studies on gambling addiction. 'When sports gambling is conducted online, the rate of problems is even higher, with one study of online sports gamblers indicating that 16 percent met clinical criteria for gambling disorder and another 13 percent showed some signs of gambling problems.'

The NCPG is particularly troubled by live 'play-in' betting, which allows gamblers to bet on much more than just outcomes, but any number of thousands of potential events within a single game. For instance, gamblers making play-in wagers could bet on anything from an NBA team's shooting percentage in a particular quarter of play, or whether an injured athlete will return to the field. 

And because play-in wagers don't rely on the final outcome of a game, they can be placed more frequently, creating significantly more action on any one sporting event.  

'This shortens the lag between bet and reward, increasing the speed and frequency of gambling, which increases the risk of problematic behavior,' read the NCPG executive summary.

Young gamblers may be at higher risk. Data from 2018 shows that more than 75 percent of students gambled, according to the NCPG. Furthermore, a 2017 study showed that 13 percent of adolescents bet on sports specifically.

But the potential for gambling problems has done nothing to stop the industries nationwide surge.

Legal sports gambling generated $43.6 billion in 2019 with $10.2 billion going to state and local taxes, according to the American Gaming Association.

Last January alone, the AGA reported that a record $4.4 billion was wagered legally at sports books across the country — the sixth consecutive month that mark has been broken.

Now, Caesars, DraftKings, and FanDuel are making it even easier for fans to wager on the NFL, while potentially growing their customer bases.

DraftKings, which previously had a deal with the NFL as its official daily fantasy sports partner, will now integrate its content with NFL media properties such as NFL Network and the NFL Red Zone channel.

Caesars was already the league's official casino sponsor, but will have more opportunity to engage NFL fans on its sports betting website as well as its network of retail sportsbooks across the country. (A sportsbook is a business that offers sports gambling)

FanDuel, meanwhile, will gain access to NFL game footage and will coordinate with the league for opportunities on NFL Network.

'Together, we will create new ways for football fans to share in the action of their favorite sport,' said Caesars CEO Tom Reeg. 'Football season will be more exciting than ever now that fans can enjoy an enhanced experience at our casinos, in our sportsbooks, and online.'

'On Super Bowl Sunday we got a glimpse at how powerful the combination of the NFL's excitement and our platform can be in delivering an enhanced fan experience,' said Matt King, CEO of FanDuel.

'The way fans consume sports years from now will look drastically different, and it will be due in part to forward-thinking collaborations like our expanded relationship with the NFL,' said DraftKings co-founder and CEO Jason Robins.

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