Millions of viewers and thousands of spectators will feast their eyes on the fourth Super Bowl to be played in Arizona next week.
Many of those will have wagers of varying amounts — some on Arizona betting apps — riding on the contest, which pits the AFC champion Kansas City Chiefs against the NFC victors, the Philadelphia Eagles.
When Super Bowl LVII kicks off just after 4 p.m. local time Feb. 12, Arizona will officially become the first state with legal sports betting to host the game.
That duality presents opportunity and obstacles for the NFL, which still forbids its players from partaking in wagering on sports, while simultaneously raking in more than $1 billion from its three sports betting partners (Caesars Sportsbook Arizona, DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel Sportsbook).
That’s in addition to secondary deals the league has struck with BetMGM Sportsbook Arizona, WynnBET, Fox Bet and PointsBet in years past — giving several of the nation’s leading sportsbooks a larger stake in Sunday’s contest.
Those deals come as players like Falcons wideout Calvin Ridley have faced yearlong suspensions for betting on games, leading some to wonder where the league should draw a line regarding wagering.
How the NFL Handles Sports Betting
Alex Riethmiller, who serves as the NFL’s vice president of communications, told BetArizona.com the league has taken the last half-decade since the eradication of PASPA carefully crafting out its stance on sports betting.
For Riethmiller and the NFL, the name of the game is protecting the sport’s legitimacy by avoiding betting scandals that could tarnish their image. Such an approach has been made more difficult by the varying laws regulating sports wagering, Riethmiller added, though the league is pleased with the Arizona sports betting legislation.
“We are working with our partners to engage interested fans in an appropriate way, providing legalized sports betting content for interested fans while not offending non-bettors,” Riethmiller told BetArizona.com. “It’s important that we use our platform to promote responsible betting; we launched our national program in 2021, becoming the first U.S. league to do so.”
Longtime observers of sports economics, such as Daniel McIntosh, who serves as a senior lecturer at Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business, says the NFL’s growing bond with wagering companies has a direct correlation with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID-19 forced NFL teams to play the 2020-21 regular season in front of pared-back (or completely empty) stadiums, which spurred them to seek out diverse forms of revenue.
“The Green Bay Packers, as a publicly traded company, make their revenues public. From 2020 to 2021, their local revenue increased $170 million as fans came back to games,” McIntosh told BetArizona.com. “Multiply that by the 32 NFL teams, that also didn’t see salary reductions, and you have a massive revenue gap.
“Once PASPA was struck down by the Supreme Court, it became a matter of when, not if these two entities would draw closer to each other. A huge factor in the acceleration of that timeline was the revenue demands brought on by the pandemic.”
Operators See Super Bowl LVII As A Golden Opportunity
The unique position of Arizona NFL betting this week isn’t lost on national sportsbook operators, such as Caesars Sportsbook.
Ken Fuchs, who serves as the COO and head of sports at Caesars, told BetArizona.com in an email the company sees Super Bowl LVII as a golden opportunity to showcase sports betting to the country at large, especially with the Big Game heading to Las Vegas next year.
“Having the Super Bowl played in a state where sports betting is live for the first time is an exciting moment for the industry and kicks off a streak of years where the Big Game will be played in states with legalized wagering, including Las Vegas next year,” Fuchs said.
Fuchs said Caesars, which is partnered with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Ak-Chin Indian Community, is uniquely positioned to capitalize on all forms of wagering, both in the run-up to Super Bowl LVII and on gameday itself — including numerous Super Bowl 57 betting bonuses Arizona customers can use.
“At Caesars Sportsbook, we’ve been live in Arizona since day one of sports betting,” Fuchs said. “We feel uniquely positioned to deliver an unbeatable experience for customers whether it be at our world-class Caesars Sportsbook with Guy Fieri’s DTPHX Kitchen + Bar at Chase Field with our partners the Arizona Diamondbacks, or at Harrah’s Ak-Chin. We look forward to offering sports fans in town a chance to bet responsibly no matter their level of experience with sports wagering.”
Sports Betting Increasing Fan Engagement
Riethmiller said the league has been thrilled by the early returns they’ve seen in terms of fan engagement and other key gametime metrics from their embrace of sports betting.
He added the positive results the NFL has seen have far outweighed the negatives, such as player suspensions and other off-the-field issues, and said the NFL is primed for this year’s clash between the Chiefs and Eagles in Arizona.
“Sports betting offers our fans additional ways to engage with our game and having the Super Bowl in a legalized state such as Arizona will offer those across the state and at the game to do so if they choose,” Riethmiller said. “The Super Bowl typically has more prop bets than other NFL games, and the expansion of online sports betting makes wagering during the game easier for fans, who can place bets on their phones.”
NFL Fully Invested in Sports Betting Going Forward
Riethmiller soundly rejected any notion the NFL’s expanded sports betting relationships could someday lead to the loosening of rules regarding team employees (including players, coaches and executives) and wagering.
Chief among the reasons why such a change is not in the cards is the fact allowing players and staff to wager on NFL contests would muddy the waters for the league, optics-wise.
“It’s been a longstanding NFL priority to protect the integrity of the game and ensure what fans are seeing on the field is the result of hard work and professionalism of players and coaches without outside influence,” Riethmiller said. “We feel our rules and policies on sports betting help us best protect the integrity of the game.”
Former Green Bay Pro Bowl wideout Jordy Nelson told BetArizona.com in September that NFL players know the rules regarding sports betting and gambling inside and out. That spoken agreement means there’s no room for error.
“As a player you stay away from it 100%,” said Nelson, who placed the honorary first bet in September at FanDuel’s retail sportsbook location outside of Wichita, Kan. “I think we’ve found that out this year with the kid who got suspended from the Falcons (Ridley). They talked to us about it every year. We were supposed to stay out of casinos.
“As a player, honestly, I don’t think it has changed. Don’t put yourself in a situation to screw anything up. You’ll play for a very short amount of time, you’ll enjoy that while you can, and if you want to get into it after you’re done playing, then that’s the opportunity. As a player, you stay as far away from casinos and gambling, especially on sports, as you can.”
The NFL, however, will continue its close relationship with sports betting, and come kickoff at State Farm Stadium on Feb. 12, the league figures to cash in on the gamble no matter who wins the game itself.