Will Sports Betting Threaten NFL Players and Hurt TV Ratings?
It’s no secret that the NFL has strongly opposed legalized sports betting. Just look at how hard they fought New Jersey and any other state wanting to overturn PASPA. Unfortunately for the NFL, the United States Supreme Court decided to overturn PASPA and legalize sports betting within this great nation. Despite suffering a major loss, the NFL has not given up their fight. In fact, they’re trying a different approach now that sports betting is legal. This approach includes a structured, regulated sports betting platform and some sort of kickback to the league for the expenses that they may occur in protecting the integrity of their sport. You may have heard the term “integrity fees.”
League representatives have been trying to get involved in negotiations with each state currently working on their sports betting policies and procedures. Unfortunately for the NFL, just about every state has sacked their efforts and said “no” to any kind of integrity fees. A perfect example of this NFL rejection is in the state of Iowa, which is in the midst of creating their framework with the goal of legalizing it by next summer. Iowa’s Rep. Jake Highfill, who is the man behind the state’s sports betting bill, shared his thoughts with BNA.com about integrity fees:
“They want to have us tax and funnel for them? I don’t know of another industry where we tax for a private company. I shot that in the head before it started. We’re never doing an integrity fee, period.”
In addition to the states, there hasn’t been one casino or sports betting venue to come out and publicly support the idea of integrity fees. If that wasn’t enough to shatter the NFL’s hopes of getting some kind of financial kickback, their own NFLPA doesn’t even endorse the idea of an integrity fee. According to an article by BNA.com, Casey Schwab, the NFLPA vice president of business and legal affairs, made the following comments about NFL integrity fees:
“Because the margins are slim and if you start undercutting the entire industry then now you’ve just given up this opportunity to do this thing, do it right, and to get all the underground bettors and hopefully get them to come above ground.”
Whether you agree with integrity fees or not, this concept has been met with widespread rejection and I don’t see it passing in any state, not even New York which has been very pro-integrity fee friendly.
With the integrity fee argument all but destroyed, NFL representatives have sought to find other ways to undermine legalized sports betting by stressing that it will have a detrimental effect on the players and the TV ratings.
Players Could be in Danger Due to Sports Betting
Casey Schwab might have supported states and casinos by rejecting an integrity fee, but he opened a new concern for state lawmakers and professional sports leagues over the safety of the players. Schwab expressed that sports betting could affect the players’ privacy. According to an article by ESPN, Schwab made the following comments:
“There are serious consequences, particularly for the athletes. Because of those consequences, the athlete’s voice must be heard, particularly as we contemplate sports betting in the country. That information — what our athletes are doing, where they’re going — has a price tag on it. And as more money goes into sports betting, that price tag goes up.”
This is a silly argument by Schwab. For starters, I would argue that Social Media has far more consequences for athletes than sports betting. Because of Social Media, anyone can have 24/7 access to information about their favorite athlete, team or sports league. Not to mention, athletes are just as much to blame for this information being out there as they Tweet and share their lives via Social Media.
Furthermore, the media (online and in-print) have placed a price tag on information since the early 1900’s. Websites, vlogs, newspapers and magazines all make their money off advertisements and sponsors based on the amount of readers and views that they get. The content is all about what information they can get on athletes at any given moment of the day. So, Schwab’s argument is rather moot as I don’t see him going after or opposing Social Media and newspapers for the safety of athletes.
Can Sports Betting Hurt the NFL TV Ratings?
Within the last week, the new Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper held a press conference answering questions and providing details about the state of the franchise moving forward. But, Tepper stunned most people in attendance with his comments about how sports betting could impact TV ratings for the NFL . According to an article by Onlinegambling.com, Tepper made the following comments:
“I also think this thing that we talked about before called gambling – it’s going to make ratings go down. I just have a feeling about that.”
First, I must point out that Tepper is expressing his feelings and not facts. Because, the truth is, sports betting won’t decrease TV ratings. In fact, most pundits believe that sports betting will be a gold mine for TV networks and sports leagues that dedicate content and shows to sports betting. I happen to agree with this as well.
Second, NFL TV ratings have fallen over the last two seasons and this was before sports betting even became legal. In 2016, the ratings dropped 8% from 2015. In 2017, the ratings dropped 9.7% from 2016. These drops have been attributed to the political climate, player protests, and fans tired of having politics crammed down their throats when watching football.
Lastly, let’s squash Tepper’s comments completely with the results from a 2016 study by Nielson Sports. This study was at the behest of the American Gaming Association and it examined the relationship between NFL viewership and legal sports betting. From this study, we learned the following “key findings”:
- NFL sports bettors watched 19 more games during the 2015 NFL season than those adults who didn’t bet at all.
- NFL sports bettors made up 25% of the audience for the NFL’s 2015 regular season.
- NFL sports bettors watched roughly 47% of all the NFL game minutes during the 2015 regular season.
- The study believes that legalized sports betting would increase NFL regular season viewership from 40 million to 57 million. This is in reference to number of viewers who bet on the NFL.
- The study projects that legalized sports betting would increase the NFL TV viewing audience from 25% sports bettors to 36%.
- One final note from this impressive study – 65% of adults would discuss the game even more via Social Media if they had placed a wager on the game.
As you can see, and maybe someone should pass this along to Tepper and other NFL owners, sports betting will increase TV ratings and Social Media buzz. This means an increase in advertising both online and on-air, which means TV stations will be happy and the NFL could potentially see a bump in their next TV contract, which will take place in 2022.
One Final Argument Against NFL Integrity Fees
The NFL’s quest to get money from states and/or casinos is rather greedy if you ask me. The country’s most popular and lucrative sports league is not hurting for money. In fact, we just learned within the last 24-48 hours that the NFL saw an increase in revenue from 2016 to 2017.
ESPN was first to report, based on the public financial records released by the Green Bay Packers, the NFL earned over $8 billion in revenue during 2017, which is an increase of about 5% from 2016. Since the Packers are a publicly owned team, they have to provide this information to the public, which means that media outlets and NFL detractors can see what the league earned.
The Packers’ financial information revealed that each of the 32 teams earned roughly $255 million dollars last year. Green Bay reportedly brought in a total revenue of $455 million dollars, which includes the $255 million that was given to them as a result of the league’s TV deals.
For a league that just made over $8 billion in revenue, one would think that they could afford to protect the integrity of their sport without having to try and force a fee or tax with states and casinos.
Final Thoughts on Sports Betting “Hurting” the NFL
If you haven’t figured it out by now, sports betting will not hurt the NFL. In fact, it will definitely help the league as more people tune in to games and talk about them via Social Media. This will result in a domino effect that should increase NFL revenue whether it be through live events, merchandise, online subscriptions or new TV deals.
The NFL is just being greedy when it comes to sports betting. The league has more than enough money to protect the “integrity” of the game without having to bully state lawmakers and casinos.
Oh, one last thing about Tepper before I forget, he and his staff are looking into ways to use sports betting to keep fans in the stadium during Carolina Panthers home games. So, on one hand Tepper feels sports betting will hurt the league via declining TV ratings, while on the other hand he sees the potential benefits of in-stadium sports betting features. Just another example of rich people pushing agendas so that they can make more money.