US and UK Philosophies on Sports Betting Are Worlds Apart

24 May 2004

US and UK Philosophies on Sports Betting Are Worlds Apart

Half knowing what the answer would be, Sportingbet's Mark Blandford offered the National Football League $10 million a year to be the official odds provider for the league.

Blandford extended the offer last week while speaking on a panel at the Global Interactive Gaming Summit &Expo with Derrick Crawford, legal counsel for the NFL. The session focused on the relationship between sports organizations and bookmakers

Blandford, Sportingbet's executive vice chairman, initially offered $5 million, and Crawford said the league wasn't interested in entering into such a relationship.

"I thought you might say that," Blandford responded. "How about $10 million a year?"

Crawford grinned and said the league wasn't ready for such a move.

The gesture came after Blandford explained the open relationships in Europe between sports organizations and bookmakers. Most of the top English League football teams, he said, have official bookmakers. Many even have betting shops on the grounds of their stadiums, where punters can wager on the games before heading in to see the live action.

It's much different, however, in the United States, where sports leagues and teams distance themselves from betting as much as possible.

"Bookmakers are seen as just another part of the leisure industry in the U.K.," Blandford explained. "In the U.S. the view is very different. A lot of that has to do with the fact that sports betting isn't as ingrained in the culture like it is in the U.K. or other parts of the world."

Crawford said not only is the NFL not ready to enter into a sponsorship agreement with sports betting firms, but it simply is in an enviable position of being able to pick and choose its corporate partners.

"We turn down offers almost every day," he said. "We do make business decisions based on money, but we don't have to accept every offer that comes our way either."

Crawford said NFL policy mandates that team owners are individuals and not cooperate entities. Consequently, the league' owners are among the richest individuals in the country.

"Our owners are very savvy business people," he said.

He also pointed out that Blandford's $10 million offer pales in comparison to the league's other sponsorship contracts.

The NFL receives more than $1 billion from some of its biggest cooperate partners, including Pepsi and Reebok just to name a few. Most agreements are multi-year deals valued at more than $100 million, creating the $1 billion revenue for the league.

Even if a sports betting entity came up with an offer rivaling that of other leading sponsors, it's doubtful the league would welcome the money.

"I am sure that would force our owners to consider it," Crawford said, "but I just don't think the league is ready for that step right now."

The league only allows advertising for state lotteries in stadiums, and some land-based gambling facilities are allowed to place advertisements in game-day programs.

Crafword added that security (in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorists attacks) and betting are very important issues for the league at the moment.

"There are two things that could bankrupt this league," he said, "a terrorist attack during one of our games and a sports betting scandal, and not necessarily in that order."

Related Links
Global Interactive Gaming Summit & Expo (GIGSE) 2004

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