The NFL’s Move Towards Official Betting

The concept of official betting has emerged as a primary front in the effort by sports leagues to shape US state and federal sports gambling policy. Ultimately, they want to profit from legal sports wagering, ideally via a direct share of total handle. In the absence of that, they seek a mechanism to monetize their data. This quest for official data mandates has supplanted their long-standing opposition to betting as the preferred method of getting their piece of the action.

During in-person testimony, NBA executive Dan Spillane pitched official data as the “one true source of data” for sports betting. Yet, Nevada has operated regulated sports betting without it for decades, and the value of official data remains open to debate. Moreover, mandating its use in sports betting laws artificially constrains the marketplace, forcing operators into commercial agreements with the leagues while granting one party what amounts to a data monopoly.

The discussion of official betting began in earnest shortly after the Supreme Court overturned PASPA in February 2018. In that month, NFL executives begin lobbying lawmakers for an official data requirement in West Virginia’s emergency rules. The proposal ultimately fails, but it marks the first time the leagues have weighed in on policy with a concrete model. The idea has since taken root in other states, including Tennessee (where a similar provision is set to take effect next week) and Illinois.