NFL names TAB its first bookmaking partner

Ben Fawkes

For the first time in league history, the NFL has partnered with a bookmaker -- and it's only the beginning.

The league on Thursday announced a multiyear agreement with Tabcorp, a prominent Australian bookmaker (TAB) and media outlet (Sky Channel) that will bring the NFL Network and NFL RedZone to more than 4,400 venues. The partnership makes TAB the exclusive official wagering partner of the NFL in Australia. Such a designation is not yet available to bookmakers in the U.S.

In January, the NFL made Caesars Entertainment its first official casino sponsor. The deal excluded sports betting, however. The league, through its data distributor Sportradar, is selling its data to American and international sportsbooks.

The NFL plans to continue to test international jurisdictions with mature, regulated bookmaking industries while preparing to eventually get more directly involved in the evolving U.S. sports betting landscape.

"Australia was one of the markets we focused on," NFL executive vice president Chris Halpin told ESPN. "There will be others that we'll be announcing throughout the season."

On Monday mornings, Sky Channel will broadcast six hours of NFL RedZone programming and the Sunday night prime-time game. Australia is 14 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time.

"Our goal is to support the growing appetite for the NFL in Australia," Adam Rytenskild, Tabcorp managing director of wagering and media, said in a release announcing the partnership.

"Our Australian fan base has kept growing," said Halpin, who oversees the NFL's key strategic growth and development opportunities. "Our consumption has been fantastic, and, for adult fans who bet on sports, we thought this was a great partnership to further engage them with TAB."

Domestically, the NFL has been the most deliberate major professional sports league in getting involved in the expanding legal sports betting industry in the U.S. The NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball signed official betting partners within six months of a Supreme Court decision in May 2018 that allowed all states to authorize sports wagering. The NFL has held off on partnering directly with an America sportsbook to this point.

"We'll also be announcing, not with the sportsbooks, but in the media and other categories, domestic partnerships that are continuing expansion of our activities in and around [sports betting]," Halpin said. "As we do things in Australia and elsewhere, and we learn, it could shape how we might go to market in the U.S. down the road."