Casino industry betting on sports fans becoming sports gamblers |
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Jamie Martines
Sports book at Monmouth Park racetrack in Oceanport, N.J.

The NFL could be looking at a $2.3 billion annual payout thanks to legalized sports betting, if all goes according to plan.

That’s how much the league stands to gain as states roll out sports betting operations, according to a Nielson Sports report released Wednesday. It was commissioned by the American Gaming Association, a trade group representing the casino industry.

“Sports betting is a way to increase fan engagement because most fans then have skin in the game, and they’re more interested in watching the entirety of the game,” said Sara Slane, AGA’s senior vice president of public affairs.

Increased fan engagement — which the report describes as increased consumption of the league’s content and products, like media rights, sponsorships, merchandise and ticket sales — could translate to about $1.75 billion in revenue.

An additional $573 million will come from betting operators and data providers for other sponsorships, advertising and product fees, according to the report.

The report assumes a best-case scenario: states will set up regulatory environments that allow legal sports betting spaces to compete effectively with black market bookies, and casual bettors and fans will become more interested in games if they have a few dollars on it.

Odds are that revenue bump won’t happen overnight. It will likely take until 2020 — possibly longer — for the national legal sports betting market to mature to the point where leagues like the NFL are seeing greater fan engagement and viewership, Slane said.

In addition to Nevada, states now offering sports betting include Delaware, New Jersey, Mississippi and West Virginia. Pennsylvania has had a law on the books allowing sports betting since October 2017. Regulations to begin sports betting were approved in August. So far, two Pennsylvania casinos have applied for permits.

Slane suggested that an uptick in television ratings could indicate that sports betting is boosting interest in the NFL or other professional and amateur leagues. Checking in on how long consumers are watching games and whether they’re watching for longer could also offer insight, she said.

Increases in casino revenue from table games, hotels or restaurants could also be a clue that sports books are attracting more consumers, she said.

Though it’s hard to measure, it is also important to question whether legal sports betting operations have been successful in cutting into the illegal market, said David Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada Las Vegas.

And as for fans, legal sports betting could change the way they support the home team, he said.

“Maybe it would make Steelers fans more interested in following other teams, as well as the Steelers,” Schwartz said. “It would give them a vested interest.”

Jamie Martines is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jamie at 724-850-2867, [email protected] or via Twitter @Jamie_Martines.

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