Slowly but surely, gambling is creeping into the NFL mainstream.
On Thursday night, the Washington Redskins used a second channel to engage fans in a free “Predict the Game” contest for their first preseason game. Fans could win cash prizes by playing and picking correct outcomes.
When you see what was on the screen for NBC Sports Washington Plus’ broadcast it’s easy to imagine that being what in-game prop bets look like, at least in states that allow sports gambling.
Here’s a view of NBC Sports Washington’s Predict The Game in the third quarter of tonight’s preseason game. pic.twitter.com/egLKagslYY— John Ourand (@Ourand_SBJ) August 9, 2019
The Los Angeles Rams are getting in on the action too, and doing it through their team site and app.
Rams have a free ‘Pick’em’ contest
What the Rams will be offering for each game this season isn’t gambling. It just looks the same. In their free “Rams Pick’em,” fans who are at least 18 years old (except in New York, Rhode Island and Florida) can answer predictive questions before and during games. The team said winners can get prizes, like two tickets and pregame field passes to Rams home games or autographed merchandise.
In a notable twist, the Rams are offering the game to fans on their site and app. Fans can play at therams.com/predict, or on the team app. There will be predictions before the game, and additional prediction questions at halftime.
“We are thrilled to bring our fans closer to the action with an engaging second-screen experience,” Rams VP of media Marissa Daly said in a statement. “We feel that our free-to-play predictions game will be a fun way for fans to compete against one another while watching their Rams compete on the field.”
The Rams’ free contest isn’t necessarily a precursor to gambling. It’s a smart way to keep fans engaged in preseason games, even after the starters and key backups have taken seats on the bench.
But it does resemble what in-game wagering could look like, once more states make it legal and the NFL fully embraces it.
Rams offer questions, fans pick correct outcome
The Rams’ release said there will be questions like “Which team completes a passing play of 30+ yards in the opening half?” or “Which of these players racks up 10+ rushing yards first?” Anyone who has been to Las Vegas for a Super Bowl knows those are prop bets, just without calling them such. Imagine being able to place that action on an NFL team app.
It wouldn’t be that hard to transition from what the Rams and Redskins are offering to gambling. Instead of it being free, you fund a sportsbook app before the game. Instead of prizes for correctly picking if a team completes a 30-yard pass, you can bet on “yes” or “no” with adjusted odds. Apps from numerous sportsbooks already offer in-game wagering like that. It will continue to spread as more states legalize sports betting.
Gambling on sports is the next major growth opportunity for all sports. Even if leagues don’t explicitly embrace it, more viewership and engagement — which happens when people bet on games — has a great trickle-down effect for leagues. Based on how the NFL is trying out free contests, the future of televised football might have a significant gambling aspect.
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