Despite the explosive growth of legal betting on sports, the National Football League has held the industry at arm’s length.
To date, the NFL has signed just one casino deal with Caesars, plus a data deal with Sportradar for “integrity monitoring.” Although the NFL did make DraftKings its first “official daily fantasy partner” in September, it specified that the deal does not include betting.
According to Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan, there’s a reason why the league has been slow to warm up to sports gambling — and it is the same reason anyone who follows the NFL would assume.
“You have to remember the history of NFL,” Khan said on stage at the Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit in New York City on Thursday. “The NFL has really been obsessed with the integrity of the sport. And it's taken a while for, you know, all the owners to get comfortable with it.”
So, with more states legalizing sports betting one by one (11 states have legalized), are the owners ready to embrace legalized sports betting? “I think so now,” Khan said.
Warmer welcome from NBA, MLB
Earlier this month, the NBA announced a new sports betting deal with William Hill, the league’s fourth betting deal, following agreements the league has already made with MGM, BetStars, and FanDuel. Similarly, Major League Baseball has signed betting agreements with MGM, FanDuel, and DraftKings.
Those two leagues moved far more quickly than the NFL to ride the tide of sports betting legalization in America, after the U.S. Supreme struck down the federal ban on sports betting in May of last year.
Jaguars owner Shad Khan added that he and his fellow owners are watching the progress in New Jersey, where legalized sports betting generated more revenue in that state in May than it did in Nevada the same month.
“There's a huge amount of during-the-event betting,” Khan said. “So we look at maybe in-stadium, on a phone [betting], there'll be a huge amount of activity on that. And obviously, it's going to drive the values of franchises up.”
The theory that franchise values go up along with sports betting legalization is an idea that’s been echoed by many NFL team owners, as well as by NBA team owner Mark Cuban.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones thinks sports betting also makes the NFL’s television rights far more valuable—he claims 50% more valuable. The NFL’s broadcast contracts with networks like CBS, Fox, and ESPN, all come up for renegotiation within the next three years.
“This is the best I’ve ever seen it in presenting the NFL right now,” Jones told Yahoo Finance in September. “All television has had diminished viewership; the NFL has disproportionately not had that kind of drop off. Our television is actually stronger than it has ever been.”
Khan echoed that sentiment on Thursday, but he emphasized international expansion.
“I absolutely think the best days of the NFL are ahead of it, especially now with the international availability,” Khan said. “It's just in its infancy. It's going to explode, in a good way.”
Daniel Roberts is the sports business writer at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite.