Official NFL data will be distributed to bookmakers for the first time and used to fuel the sports betting market in the United States and internationally through an expanded partnership with Sportradar announced Monday.
Live audiovisual NFL game feeds also will be supplied to sportsbooks outside of the U.S., in select international markets.
After decades of the NFL strongly opposing the sports betting industry, the agreement with Sportradar, a prominent sports data provider, marks a significant shift in the NFL's position at the league level. Multiple teams have done deals with casinos with sportsbooks, and Caesars Entertainment became the NFL's first official casino partner earlier this year. Now, the NFL is licensing its data and game feeds to bookmakers.
Sportradar serves more than 500 sportsbooks and now is an official partner of all four major professional U.S. sports leagues: the NBA, NHL, Major League Baseball and the NFL.
The deal gives Sportradar exclusive rights to distribute real-time, play-by-play data that is used to create updated odds and betting propositions throughout a game. In-game wagering -- where bettors place bets during games -- is the most popular form of betting in the United Kingdom and is expected to grow in prominence in the evolving U.S. landscape.
Nine states in addition to Nevada have begun taking bets since a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling last May struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, the federal statute that had restricted state-sponsored sports betting primarily to Nevada. Since the ruling, legal sportsbooks have begun operating in nine states outside of Nevada: Arkansas, Delaware, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and West Virginia. Casinos in Iowa are set to start taking bets Thursday.
For American bookmakers to offer an efficient in-game betting product, they need accurate, reliable data transmitted quickly from the stadiums and arenas.
"Our partner will be situated in the stadium and with collection availability on really low-latency video that has the opportunity to be market-differentiated and not have to wait to collect a [data feed] from outside of the stadium," Hans Schroeder, executive vice president and chief operating officer for NFL Media, told ESPN on Monday.
As part of the agreement, the NFL's proprietary Next Gen Stats (NGS) player-tracking data also will be distributed by Sportradar and could be used to create unique betting markets. Andy Cunningham, Sportradar director of global strategy for integrity services, said that Sportradar would work with the NFL to decide which types of bets will be based on the Next Gen Stats and provided to bookmakers.
"This is the first time the NFL has made an official feed available [to sportsbooks]," Andy Cunningham told ESPN on Monday. "To bring the fastest, richest and most accurate feed to the market, we see the opportunity to create new betting markets that will come to fans, more play-by-play markets and the never-used-before-for-betting Next Gen Stats that will allow us to do things around speed and distance potentially."
Sportradar's high-tech fraud detection system will monitor the global betting market on all NFL events to spot any anomalies that could indicate corruption. Protecting the integrity of its product when it comes to betting remains a priority for the NFL.
"It was of critical importance and will continue to be moving forward," Schroeder said of the integrity portion of the deal with Sportradar. "We know there's a new day and that means that we need to enable products like data feeds, and the integrity services are at the top of that list."
ESPN and Sportradar also have been partners for data.
While the NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball quickly created data and marketing deals with sports betting operators, just months after the Supreme Court decision in some cases, the NFL took a more deliberate approach.
"For us, with the announcement a year ago in May, it was really a focus on, let's make sure to get it right and have the right model that focuses on the protection of the integrity of the game and insures that our fans will have the best experience around it, as legalized sports betting rolls out," Schroeder said.