‘It’s The Lesser Of Two Evils’ – NRL Eyes US Betting Market As Aussie Regulators Circle

‘It’s The Lesser Of Two Evils’ – NRL Eyes US Betting Market As Aussie Regulators Circle

The code’s pursuit of gambling dollars includes offers of “a package to provide vision and odds for rugby league’s transition into the States”. A sports marketing chief says the optics aren’t great, but it’s not the biggest problem facing gambling’s influence on sports.

The NRL is eyeing US betting companies to sell streaming rights as it looks to capture a slice of the country’s booming betting market.

The push to attract gambling revenue stateside comes at a time when Australia is looking to rein in gambling advertising on TV.

It also follows the NRL’s foray into the US; the code hosted two games in Las Vegas in its opening round, which attracted an average US TV audience of 61,000 and 44,000, respectively.

The push to attract US streaming rights with wagering companies follows a similar playbook to the horse racing industry, where companies like Tabcorp and Bet365 pay for the rights to show live racing on their owned media assets, such as apps and websites.

A sports marketing agency chief, who spoke to B&T on the condition of anonymity, described the move as “the lesser of two evils”.

“Of all the things that are happening from a sport and a wagering perspective. wagering companies buying vision rights to stand up in their own apps that are age-gated and should have good governance around at-risk wagers, irresponsible gambling, and those sorts of red flags is the lesser of two evils versus wagering brands plastered around stadiums on sports jerseys and taking up airtime on TV when kids and at-risk wagerers might be watching,” the agency leader said.

“It’s not a great optical look for the NRL, but in the grand scheme of things, there are probably other things we should be focusing our attention on to regulate wagering and sports betting advertising”.

Nick Verhelst, the senior partnerships lead at M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment, told B&T that gambling is one of the fastest growing industries in the US, and tapping into its wagering market is part of the NRL’s foray into America.

“There’s a commercial reality that Americans are falling in love with sports betting, when the rest of the world is having a conversation about whether we need to regulate it backwards,” he said. 

“You would only hope there was a more respectable way for the NRL to gain additional revenue to ‘lower overheads’. Sadly, given Australia’s current wagering habits on live sport, I don’t believe the timezone will affect this too much with wagering companies being the real winner come the final whistle.”

Between May 2022 and April 2023, $238.6 million was spent on gambling advertising on free-to-air TV, metro radio and online (including social media).

Free-to-air TV attracted the greatest ad spend on gambling, with $133m spent on metro TV ads and $29m on regional, followed by social media ($34.6m), metro radio ($22.4m) and other online platforms, such as websites and apps ($19.5m).

The NRL had not responded to B&T’s request for comment at the time this article was published.

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