News broke in mid-March that the newest football CBA, finally agreed to by the NFL and its players union, allows for sportsbooks to operate inside NFL stadiums.
The news, first reported by ESPN, brings an inevitable finish to the long-promoted belief by the NFL that sports betting could adversely affect the game’s integrity and threaten the perception of old-school morality often put forth by the league.
But as the dollars have grown, and as America has seen the rapid expansion of legalized sports betting, the NFL decided it was in its financial interests to embrace on-site sports betting. It is a position the league has warmed up to in recent years.
One place that could fail to immediately reap the benefits, however, is SoFi Stadium, the incoming home of the Los Angeles Chargers and Los Angeles Rams.
It will also be home to Super Bowl LVI in 2022, presenting a deadline many will point to for the implementation of sports betting in what could be the biggest betting market in America – California.
What does in-stadium sports betting look like?
The ESPN report described CBA language as allowing owners and players to share revenue generated “by the operation of gambling-related businesses located in or physically attached to an NFL Stadium.”
The league had already announced in February its permission for teams to operate sports betting lounges and accepts sportsbook sponsorships, according to the report.
The CBA also includes language specifically describing wagers placed on “any aspect of NFL games” and “any performance of NFL players” and goes as far as to reference on-site slot machines. A timeline for implementation has not been established.
Sports betting could take place at stadiums outside the NFL season, as well, offering another option to owners who currently try to attract off-season crowds through concerts and other entertainment options.
Such efforts would likely include lavish sportsbook lounges, allowing bettors to sit down, buy a drink, watch a game and place a bet on their smartphone. Wagering windows like what is seen at Churchill Downs are still not permitted.
Where does California stand on sports betting?
While efforts are underway to place sports betting in tribal casinos on a November ballot initiative, the state has yet to show it can come to an agreement on sports betting, let alone mobile betting.
It’s likely, too, that with so much attention focused on the coronavirus, initiatives like sports betting will fall by the wayside for many in the state.
Without an agreement in the next couple years, the state could lose out on a massive amount of betting revenue that would not only be generated by pro football but also the Super Bowl slated to take place at SoFi Stadium in February 2022.
SoFi Stadium has already showed its friendliness to gaming by announcing in December 2019 that the Pechanga Resort Casino would be a founding partner.
But without statewide legalization, the benefits of sports betting inside NFL stadiums won’t be enjoyed by California, an irony for a state often at the forefront of entertainment in America.
Despite concerns, coronavirus not slowing construction
A Los Angeles Times report posted March 30 detailed how the coronavirus, which has brought enormous swaths of American society to a grinding halt, has not slowed construction at SoFi Stadium.
Despite one worker testing positive for COVID-19 and another presumed positive, around 3,000 workers continue to work on the stadium, keeping the anticipated July opening timeline in sight.
The construction project, considered critical infrastructure, has remained exempt from California’s stay-at-home order, although Los Angeles officials have said construction sites will be inspected to ensure workers are following proper health protocols.
By the end of the week, however, there were no signs that construction on the $5 billion project would be halted.
“If our safety was the most important thing, they wouldn’t have us out here,” an anonymous worker told the Times, even before news of the positive test became public.
Still, some workers have expressed a desire to continue working amidst the health crisis, citing the need for continued income. And in a world where workers need pay and NFL owners need a stadium in time for a yet-to-be delayed football season, work proceeds.