It’s no secret that a large chunk of the NFL’s runaway dominance of the American sports market is due to gambling, even though it’s only legal in one state.
But the NFL has been hesitant to embrace betting as a legitimate source of revenue or marketing. Roger Goodell’s hardline stance on the issue hasn’t changed, even with the league considering the possibility of a team in Las Vegas.
Now, a recent study has shown the league’s resistance to embracing sports gambling might be costing the league on TV and in ad revenue.
MoffettNathanson Research recently release a report called NFL Season Recap – It’s All Over But the Crying, which sadly is paywalled. However, LegalSportsReport managed to get their hands on some of the findings:
“One potential change in the direction of viewership and ad dollars would be an evolution in the NFL’s view of legalized national sports gambling. …
Up to this point, the NFL has been reluctant to embrace [NBA Commissioner Adam] Silver’s point of view. Perhaps that would change if broader business decisions — and the health of the NFL’s TV partners — were taken more into account.”
Some of the numbers included in the report are pretty striking. It says that should sports gambling be legalized at the federal level, some 10% of non-bettors would likely bet on sports, which would increase the time spent by viewers watching NFL games. And sports bettors watch ESPN and NFL Network more than the average Joe, a trend that would be further inflated if sports betting were legalized and discussed on TV. Whether or not that would help each network pick up subscribers, the viewing numbers would almost certainly go up.
“This report from the leading media analyst on Wall Street shows TV partners why legalizing sports betting would boost viewership and grow advertising revenue,” said Sara Slane, the American Gaming Association’s senior vice president of public affairs, in a release highlighting the sports betting component of the report. “We invite broadcasters and advertisers to join our growing coalition to advocate for Congress to lift the failing federal ban on sports betting.”
So would legalizing sports betting, or at least changing their public stance on the issue, help the NFL pick up some of its lost TV numbers? It’s certainly a plausible theory, especially if fans have money on games they otherwise wouldn’t be interested in. But since Congress isn’t showing any willingness to budge on this issue, and the NFL is still firmly against legalized betting, at least publicly, there won’t be any headway too soon.