“Alea iacta est.” (The die is cast). – Julius Caesar, 49 B.C.
Julius Caesar knew taking his army across the Rubicon into Northern Italy was a move that would change history. Fast-forward a couple of thousand years and Caesar is making another bold move.
OK, it’s Caesars Entertainment Corporation and not the legendary leader but still, the actions announced on Thursday will undoubtedly have far-reaching effects on life as sports fans know it.
The National Football League announced a partnership making Caesars, the parent company for dozens of casinos and hotels across the country, the league’s first official casino sponsor.
The deal is worth a reported $30 million a year over the next three years and gives Caesars properties the exclusive rights to NFL trademarks in the U.S. and United Kingdom. There are already plans for the gambling giant to promote the partnership during the upcoming NFL playoffs. It will host elements of the 2020 NFL Draft at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.
On the surface it seems this is an inevitable wedding: the nation’s largest casino operator and the nation’s most popular sports league getting together to create a money-generating behemoth.
“There is no sports entity in the world that’s better at creating sponsorable, brandable inventory than the NFL,” said Steve Gera, a San Diego State University Sports MBA Lecturer who also spent a decade as a coach and analyst for the San Diego Chargers and Cleveland Browns. “They’re always looking for brand new ways to engage corporate partners.”
Of course this development comes with a whole lot of questions, not the least of which is how far the partnership extends into Caesars Entertainment’s operations. In a press release the NFL stated the partnership is for the casino only and does not include sports betting or daily fantasy games.
Logic would dictate this is a step in that direction, the NFL being directly involved with legalized sports betting. According to the American Gaming Association the most popular North American sports entity could make $2.3 billion a year from such an agreement.
Another potential issue is something NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has talked about many times himself: the integrity of the game.
Many fans, especially those who throw down a few dollars on games, likely think a professional sports league being involved with legalized sports gambling opens an even greater possibility for impropriety or “rigged” games so this agreement may well diminish the NFL’s ability to claim its product is as clean as can be. Or, maybe it has the opposite effect.
“I don’t think it diminishes it. I just think it makes it more transparent,” said Gera. “At the end of the day they are changing with the times. I mean let’s be honest; at some point most corporations at some point in time take a hard stance on something and then later on, as times change, they soften their stance to a certain degree.”
A 2018 ruling by New Jersey’s Supreme Court legalized sports betting in that state and helped accelerate the spread of the practice. As of this writing eight states allow legalized sports betting … two more (New York and Arkansas) are close to joining them … and 17 more, including California, have introduced bills to do the same.
As sports gambling becomes more mainstream the NFL is positioning itself to get a huge slice of the revenue pie.
“The underlying economics basically dictate that if the NFL doesn’t get into it they’re going to be leaving money on the table and they’re not in the habit of leaving money on the table,” said Gera or a league who has stated publicly that its goal is to reach $25 billion in annual revenue by the year 2027. “None of these sports leagues are. At the end of the day they’re profit-driven businesses and they’re going to have the change and innovate and keep up with the times if they’re going to continue to grow and continue to try and put a quality product out on the field.”
Caesars is already a partner on the new stadium for the Raiders near the Las Vegas strip and has a deal with seven individual NFL teams … the Falcons, Ravens, Bears, Colts, Saints, Raiders, and Eagles. All of those teams except Atlanta are located in states that have legalized sports gambling or introduced a bill working towards it.