Super Bowl LIII is set to be a gauge of the effects of nationwide legalized gambling.
The game will be of particular interest to a variety of sports professionals, including Irwin Raij, the co-chair of the sports industry group at the law firm O’Melveny. Raij tracks issues in the emerging betting industry and has invested in professional soccer and baseball teams.
“It’s the first Super Bowl where betting is legalized in multiple states, and there’s a lot still evolving,” Raij said. “It’s a different twist to what people have been talking about.”
NFL viewership was already up between four and five percent this season, Raij said, which he believes is in part because of the increase in sport betting legality. The viewership could rise with more interest and participation in sports betting as more states legalize the practice. Sports betting is currently legal in seven states, and Raij expects up to 12 more states to legalize the practice in 2019.
The Super Bowl will be an inside look at the ways the NFL is experimenting with its new possibilities. For other leagues, the legalization of sports betting might open up an avenue for new fans, Raij said. The way betting can track how different stats and plays might affect the outcome could create a more engaging game.
“Baseball has a lot of content potential,” he said. “From a player analysis perspective, maybe it fuels an engine to create a renaissance of the game when there’s a moment all the time they’re watching.”
The NFL has so long been the top draw of sports leagues, Raij said, adding it would take some time to figure out how to best monetize the opportunities presented by legalized sports betting.
A sign the NFL will take its time was its delay in signing a deal with a major gaming property. The NHL, MLB, and NBA all signed partnership deals with MGM, looking to better compile and understand gaming data.
The NFL, however, signed a more traditional sponsorship deal with Caesars. Raij likened the NFL’s approach to a gaming deal similarly to how the league has been innovative in its broadcasting rights.
As more information emerges from sports betting, the leagues can create new products and tools, Raij said, with some of the information being public, with other information remaining official proprietary data.
“There will be a lot of analytics,” Raij said. “The NHL and NBA deals are creating new data, creating official unique IP. If you’re in the NFL, looking at what they did, it’s more, ‘is there something we can create?’”
Legal sports betting won’t eliminate illegal betting, Raij said, but it will bring more bettors to the surface, both those who formerly stayed quiet and those who stayed away because of the illegality. All that data can be captured, Raij said. He also said the tools and products will need to be done in a way not to alienate those fans who chose to avoid the betting action.
There will likely be in the tens of millions of bettors who were previously provided no data points, he said, and the media and sponsorship value of those fans could be significant.
“It’s a know-your-customer thing; here’s a way to market to them,” he said. “It’ll be about getting to know them and incentivizing them to spend more money.”
The Super Bowl offers the first real look into how the leagues and sports betting entities will engage fans in a world where sports betting is embraced.
“We started to see those deals at the end of 2018, so I think now 2019 is the full year of planning around it,” Raij said. “I look at the Super Bowl and it is a really bold, big event that really is the beginning of the calendar year in big sports events that will set some standards. It’s naturally a big step.”