The NFL’s relationship with legal gambling, which not long ago was ice cold, is moving along at a rapid pace.
There have been small steps, like allowing the Washington Redskins to offer a free predictive game during a preseason telecast, or the Rams have a predictive game for prizes during all of its games this season on their website and app.
Monday’s news is a much bigger step. According to Eben Novy-Williams of Bloomberg News, the NFL has a new partnership with Sportradar, which allows Sportradar to sell NFL data to legal sports books.
The NFL announced the deal late Monday morning, announcing the “exclusive distribution of real-time official play-by-play data and NGS data to sports betting operators in the U.S. and internationally where sports betting is legal and regulated.”
NBA, NHL have similar deals
There are similar relationships around the sports world, as the spread of legal sports gambling in the United States changes the landscape.
The NBA made a historic first step in that field last July, partnering with MGM Resorts International. Part of the agreement was that MGM would pay the NBA for data. The NHL entered a similar partnership with MGM last October, and proprietary NHL data was part of that deal.
Sharing data is key to in-game wagering, which has already become a major part of the sports gambling landscape and will continue to grow as more states offer legal sports gambling. When the NBA entered its agreement with MGM, the Associated Press reported the NBA’s stance was that official data sharing was important so bettors “know what they’re betting on and so casinos will know when to pay out.”
Multiple reports said the NBA’s agreement with MGM was for $25 million over three years. Sportradar also is the distributor of NBA stat data, according to the AP.
Big step for NFL in regards to gambling
Sportradar already had a relationship with the NFL. It powers NFL’s GSIS —Game Statistics and Information System — that provides all official stats in real time. It also is behind NFL’s Next Gen Stats, which was introduced before the 2014 season. Williams reported the NFL has been an equity shareholder in Sportradar’s U.S. business since 2015.
The specifics of what happens next might be less important than the big picture. The NFL has resisted gambling, even legal gambling in Nevada, for decades. Even as the NBA was quick to embrace new legislation that allowed states to decide on legal sports gambling, the NFL resisted. Part of that has been a stated concern in the integrity of games, which the league made sure to mention in its release on Monday.
“The NFL will also use Sportradar's comprehensive and award-winning integrity services to monitor betting across all NFL games (preseason, regular season, and postseason),” the statement said. “The NFL and its clubs will also have access to Sportradar's integrity education workshops and products to ensure the continuation of the NFL's high standard for integrity.”
Presumably, the NFL has realized that sports gambling is growing and will fuel the next wave in popularity along all sports. It’s better business to join the movement.
– – – – – – –
More from Yahoo Sports: