UK Sportsbooks See Increased Action: Time for an NFL Team in London?

SBR Staff

Tuesday, October 6, 2015 11:54 AM UTC

Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2015 11:54 AM UTC

After the Jets-Dolphins week 4 game in London, Uk sportsbook is offereng betting lines on a NFL franchise sprouting in London in the next few years, is this a true possibility?

Sportsbook firm William Hill is now offering 25/1 on an NFL franchise sprouting up in London by 2020 after 90,000 fans packed into a sold-out Wembley Stadium in the UK capital to watch the New York Jets beat the Miami Dolphins 27-14. 

It throws up an interesting juxtaposition as a sport that vehemently opposes sports wagering continues to make inroads into a country that positively embraces it. NFL chiefs aim to make American football the third most popular sport in the UK and the number of regular season matches held on the other side of the pond has gradually increased over the past decade. 

Its popularity among the British public has also climbed, and British sports fans love to gamble, a privilege they enjoy without any of the laws prohibiting sports betting than prevail in most US states. William Hill, Britain biggest sportsbook operator, estimates that it took £200,000 on the Jets-Dolphins game, and said it enjoyed a 300% increase in turnover on the game compared to another regular season match.
Hills’ Joe Crilly said: “We always see a spike in NFL turnover when it comes to the UK and every year that number grows.”
He added that “it is clear that the appetite for the sport continues to grow” among Brits. 

This is an interesting challenge for the NFL, as a UK franchise looks certain at some point in  the future as part of a plan to make it a global brand that can rival soccer’s Premier League. The NFL continues to oppose legalizing sports betting in the US, claiming it would damage the long-term health of the brand. Lawrence Ferazani, senior labor litigation counsel for the NFL, says: “The NFL is in a revenue-generating business. If the NFL believes that sports gambling would allow it to increase its revenue, the NFL would engage in that activity. Based upon our studies and analysis, we know that sports betting will negatively impact our long-term relationship with our fans, negatively impact the perception of our sport across the country.”

It is for this reason that the NFL has shunned Las Vegas and wanted nothing to do with plans host NFL games at a proposed 60,000-seat stadium on the UNLV campus due to the city’s status as a gambling hub. It even shut down a fantasy convention held in Vegas by Tony Romo, reminding the Dallas Cowboys quarterback that players cannot participate in promotional events at casinos. 
But investors that want to bring the NFL to Vegas – and they anticipate it would generate hundreds of millions of dollars for the local economy – would surely argue that hosting NFL matches in the city is no different to hosting games in London, a city rife with casinos, where sports betting is deeply ingrained in the culture. 

Bringing the NFL to Vegas would boost sportsbooks operating in the city, increase tax revenues and create jobs, while also bringing the worlds of sports betting and football closer together. 
In the UK, sports betting is huge business, adding billions to the economy, raising a fortune for the Government in tax and providing thousands of jobs. 

Lobbyists keen to see sports wagering made legal across the US will point to its economic success in the UK, along with AGA figures suggesting that $93 billion will be wagered illegally on the NFL this season across the US, when reiterating their case for a legal sports betting framework that can be taxed and controlled. 
Indeed, the American Gaming Association issued a release on Saturday commending the NFL’s willingness to make inroads into a market that offers legal sports betting.

“We applaud the NFL’s willingness to once again host games in a city where betting on sports is a national pastime and a mainstream form of entertainment,” said Geoff Freeman, president and CEO of the AGA. “While sports fans across the United States are also betting on these games – largely illegally because of an outdated and failing law – millions of dollars will be bet in London on the NFL games in a legal, regulated and safe manner."

The AGA and its allies can also point to the rise of daily fantasy football, which is wholly endorsed by the NFL. DraftKings and FanDuel dominate commercial breaks during NFL games and are helping the NFL increase revenue. 
Commissioner Roger Goodell says daily fantasy is not gambling, but it clearly is. Football fans lay down a stake and can either hit the jackpot by winning their daily league or lose everything. It is skill-based, but it is no different to using one’s skills to win or lose at poker. 
The NFL is now fully in bed with fantasy football providers, and it may not be too big a stretch for it to join the NBA in calling for sports betting to be made legal across the US, thus generating billions in tax revenue and freeing up overstretched law enforcement officers that are busy pursuing illegal gambling rings. 

It works in London, it works in Vegas, and it would work across the US. 

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