Saturday December 19,2015 : THE HYPOCRISY OF AMERICA'S NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE
This organisation may rail against gambling as a danger to the integrity of sport, but it's not averse to indirectly making money out of the business.
The National Football League in the United States says that gambling presents dangers to the integrity of sports, but it is not averse to making money from indirect activities that support gambling despite going to extraordinary lengths to preserve the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (think New Jersey sports betting legalization litigation).
This week the New York Times reported on the NFLs latest money-making venture – selling live data from its games that includes streaming from playing fields, driving not only game apps on fans’ mobile phones and computers, but also fantasy sites and professional reports for online sports betting sites.
The N.F.L. signed a lucrative new deal in April this year with Sportradar, a Swiss-based live data provider servicing the online sports betting industry which subsequently inked a deal to provide data to daily fantasy sports operator FanDuel, and a month later struck a deal to distribute data for the National Hockey League as well.
The NFL has taken an equity stake in Sportradar, underscoring "…the league’s ambiguous position on the shifting ground of gambling in the Internet age, in which betting is increasingly woven into the culture of American sports but the nation’s legal structure lags behind," the newspaper reports.
And, as the NY Times article points out, online sports betting is almost entirely illegal in the United States, and the NFL is among its strongest opponents.
In addition, the NFL and its franchises are increasingly doing business with daily fantasy sports operators, where many lawmakers and regulators are of the view that this activity constitutes gambling.
"Almost every N.F.L. team has a partnership deal with the fantasy sites, and two of the league’s most powerful owners have stakes in DraftKings. The league also has a partnership in Britain with DraftKings, which has a gaming license there," the Times claims.
The NY Times investigation extended to Sportradar subsidiary Betradar, a provider of data to 450 bookmaking companies, including BetCRIS, which the article reminds readers has repeatedly faced prosecution in the United States.
Challenged on its apparent hypocrisy in contracting to provide live data to Sportradar for distribution to its clients, the NFL said its agreement was with the United States arm of the company, Sportradar US.
“There is a strict prohibition on distribution of the N.F.L.’s official data feeds to any gambling-related activity or entity, globally,” the NFL said.
“Sportradar US does not generate revenue from gambling-related activities for any sport.” Sportradar is allowed to distribute official data only “to consumer facing, digital distribution publishers,” the body stressed.
When asked whether it works with several online bookmakers that are known to be active in the United States, Sportradar said in a statement that it “does not comment on individual client contracts.”
But Sportradar said that it “has a strict policy to only provide data to licensed bookmakers” and obliges its clients “not to target customers in jurisdictions where betting is illegal.”
The company's US branch does not provide services to any bookmakers, the company claimed.
The article explores allegations of copying and reselling a rival's data between 2008 and 2012 which saw a legal action against Sportradar in the British courts and a subsequent confidential settlement.
The NY Times piece describes the complexities of deploying live data and its importance to online gambling websites and punters in today's world of instant communications.
Sportradar's penetration in the United States has included investment from the owners of three NBA franchises as well – the Washington Wizards, the Dallas Mavericks and the Charlotte Hornets…and the company has also begun working with Nascar Racing.
The attraction of the US betting market despite the legal hurdles is obvious – the American Gaming Association estimates that the illegal betting market for professional and college football alone will reach nearly $100 billion in 2015.
The Times article is interesting as both an examination of Sportradar and its US activity and the continued if painfully slow evolution of the US sports betting market – access it here: