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Gambling and the new NFL collective bargaining agreement

The NFL Players Association presented a proposed collective bargaining agreement to its members to vote on. We break down the extensive gambling discussion in the proposed deal.

Atmosphere at the Grand Opening of DraftKings Sportsbook at Resorts November 20, 2018 at Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Photo by Bill McCay/Getty Images for Draft Kings

The NFL players start voting on the proposed collective bargaining agreement (CBA) on Thursday and runs for seven days. You can check out the 439 page document here if you want to get into the nitty gritty. But, for our purposes we’ll scan the proposal for references to gambling.

The NFL has been a stalwart against anything hinting at sports betting, which even veered into fantasy football at times, but the times, they are a changin’ and money talks. There are two references to “gamblers” and 34 references to “gambling” in the new CBA (h/t Legal Sports Report). Let’s check them out.

The first mention comes under Article 12: Revenue Accounting and Calculation of the Salary Cap. You’ll find mentions of ticket sales, copyright royalties, concessions, parking and so on, including revenue from gambling. That revenue is defined as:

Revenues related to gambling on any aspect of NFL games, any performance of NFL players in NFL games or in any other NFL/Club-related activity . . . gambling-related sponsorship revenues, operation of gambling of any kind in an NFL stadium, use of NFL/Club-related telecasts or other content by gambling-related businesses, use of NFL/Club licensed gambling applications, and revenues related to ensuring the gambling-related integrity of NFL games or other NFL/Club-related activity.

But, you say, there isn’t any gambling in this establishment! That is true, as the NFL remains gambling free for the most part, but we have seen slow movement toward them dipping their mitts into the gambling revenue stream.

The NFL just expanded their partnership with data company Sportradar to distribute their statistics to sportsbooks. Sportradar is now asking bookmakers for a 1.5% cut of their net profit from in-game bets, per ESPN’s David Purdum for access to the league’s official data feed, and that money goes into the CBA pot.

The league has also partnered with Caesars Entertainment, but initially it will be entirely marketing-based instead of gambling-based. That being said, the NFL now has a direct connection with an entity that will aggressively lobby for sports betting’s continued expansion across the U.S.

We’ve also seen the online casino 888 Sportsbook become an official sponsor of the New York Jets. The sponsorship skirts the legal sports gambling that 888 offers in New Jersey by not explicitly highlighting sports betting, but you can’t really get away from it if you go to their site.

Other teams have made sponsorship deals with casinos that don’t have sports betting, but as states pass gambling laws, many of those casinos will get into betting on NFL games. The players and their representatives know that the money is going to be coming in and they deserve a piece.

The CBA mentions revenue from “gambling of any kind in an NFL stadium” and it doesn’t mean the five bucks you bet your buddy that Justin Tucker would nail that 63 yarder. Right now the NFL doesn’t allow sportsbooks at NFL stadiums, but both Maryland and Virginia have proposed bills to allow gambling at professional sporting events and the NFL will start allowing “betting lounges” at stadiums in states with legal gambling. These lounges will be shoved into the dark corners of the stadium and all references to sportsbooks must have “sponsor” on them. There also won’t be any betting windows; instead they will have “mobile betting options.” But, betting at an NFL stadium will now be sanctioned by the NFL.

The CBA language goes into more detail, but the biggest takeaway is that they are prepared to expand into the gambling world. We might not hear them trumpet their newfound love of wagering on NFL games, but it’s there and the new CBA will allow it to grow.

Any player caught betting on the NFL is suspended, as nothing has changed there. Players, of course, can’t accept bribes and can be punished for not reporting a bribe or even “knowingly associate with gamblers or gambling activity.”

At this point, it’s only a matter of time before the NFL fully embraces gambling. Public perception is what they care about and as sportsbooks become legal and start popping up in every state, the NFL will be there to get their cut.