Caesars, NFL announce ‘first-ever’ sponsorship deal; sports betting not included Howard Stutz, CDC Gaming Reports · January 3, 2019 at 1:06 pm The announcement Thursday of a multi-year sponsorship deal between the National Football League and casino giant Caesars Entertainment is noteworthy for being a “first-ever” and for the three words it doesn’t include – legal sports wagering. According to the agreement, Caesars becomes the initial “Official Casino Sponsor of the NFL,” which focuses on the gaming resort company providing “unique experiences for NFL” fans. The concentration is on many of the non-gaming attractions found in the company’s network of casino properties, including celebrity chefs, musical acts, and a range of entertainment elements. Caesars has nearly 40 properties in 13 states under the Caesars, Harrah’s, Horseshoe and Bally’s brands. Seven NFL teams – Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Chicago Bears, Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints, Oakland Raiders and Philadelphia Eagles – already have marketing “relationships” with Caesars properties. “These partnerships, along with the new league deal, are for the casino category only and do not include sports betting, daily fantasy or hotels/resorts,” according to the statement, which said the deal begins with this weekend’s opening of the NFL playoffs. Financial terms were not disclosed but the Associated Press reported the arrangement is worth $30 million annually for three years. NFL Senior Vice President Renie Anderson said, “Combining the NFL with Caesars’ expertise in world class entertainment will provide our fans unique experiences both here in the United States and abroad.” Last month, the NFL announced its 2020 Draft would be held in Las Vegas. In the Thursday’s statement, the league said Caesars, alongside other properties on Las Vegas Strip, will host elements of the draft in coordination with the City of Las Vegas. Lack of sports betting in the Caesars-NFL deal didn’t concern Macquarie Securities gaming analyst Chad Beynon. “We believe this is another positive step for sports betting overall, as a closer relationship between sports leagues and casino operators will naturally draw more attention to the sports betting product,” Beynon said in a research note. Beynon said Caesars has noted a 10 percent to 20 percent increase in the company’s adjacent bars and restaurants in its New Jersey and Mississippi casinos since legal sports betting was launched. The company also has corporate deals with the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and New Orleans Pelicans and the NHL’s New Jersey Devils. Caesars announced a sports betting partnership this week with the Oneida Indian Nation’s Turning Stone casino in New York. The NFL has long been opposed to any relationships with gambling, especially sports betting. Since the Supreme Court decision in May that has allowed states to legalize sports wagering, the NFL has sought to either slow the expansion or seek some type payment for use of official league data. Last September, NFL Executive Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs Jocelyn Moore told a Congressional subcommittee hearing on sports betting that the Supreme Court ruling created, “The absence of a clear and enforceable set of legal standards for sports betting threatens the integrity of our nation’s professional and amateur sporting contests.” Moore asked that Congress “create a modern framework to regulate sports betting in a way that continues to protect consumers and the integrity of professional and amateur sporting contests.” However, cracks in the wall between the NFL and gaming began in September when the Dallas Cowboys and the WinStar World Casino in Oklahoma – operated by the Chickasaw Nation Tribe – announced a partnership deal. A similar deal was announced a few months later between MGM Resorts International and the New York Jets. David G. Schwartz, director of UNLV’s Center for Gaming Research, said the deal between Caesars and the NFL shows the league’s acceptance of gambling might be changing. According to the sponsorship agreement, Caesars will have the exclusive right to use NFL trademarks in the United States and the United Kingdom – where Caesars operates a network of small casinos – to promote Caesars casino properties at key NFL events, including the Super Bowl and NFL Draft. “That Caesars casinos will be able to openly advertise Super Bowl parties speaks volumes about the increasing rapprochement between the leagues and gambling interests,” Schwartz said. Chris Grove, an analyst with Eilers & Krejcik Gaming, said the NFL might hold out longer for a sports betting deal. “The financial potential for such a deal is only going to escalate as the U.S. regulated sports betting market expands,” Grove said in an email. “Right now, you’re still only looking at about 10 percent of the U.S. population having access to regulated sports betting, a number that we expect to jump above 25 percent by 2020.” Grove added that the NFL might be viewing the Caesars deal “as a safe first step into largely uncharted waters, and a way to set a value benchmark for future deals.” In November, Caesars became the first casino company to sign a partnership deal with the under-construction $1.8 billion Las Vegas Stadium, which will house the NFL’s now-Oakland Raiders starting in 2020. The team is developing the 65,000-seat domed stadium near the Las Vegas Strip and will move to Southern Nevada, becoming the Las Vegas Raiders. “Combining the league’s 180 million fans with our 55 million Total Rewards loyalty program members will expose millions of people to the exclusive and exciting year-round opportunities at our properties,” Caesars CEO Mark Frissora said in a statement. Both the National Basketball Association and National Hockey League have struck similar marketing and sponsorship deals with MGM Resorts, but those agreements include the usage of league data. “The NFL’s official partnership with Caesars Entertainment is a perfect example of the value of contractual relationships between leagues and the casino gaming industry,” said Sara Slane, senior vice president of public affairs for the American Gaming Association. “The partnerships now in place between gaming companies and each of the four major American sports leagues enrich the fan experience and validate gaming’s role as a form of mainstream entertainment.” Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.