Written By Tyler Andrews on April 24, 2022Last Updated on April 25, 2022
Cowboys NFL Draft history

For three days, the eyes of the NFL world will be on Las Vegas to celebrate and/or bemoan their teams’ futures.

With an NFL Draft class that most consider having depth at all positions (except QB), plenty of blue-chip options mean the first couple of rounds will be full of exciting picks.

The Dallas Cowboys have the 24th pick in the Draft. Will they shore up the offensive line, fill one of their receiver holes, or set their sights on an edge rusher? We’ll know soon enough.

While the 2022 NFL Draft is getting you excited for the new season, hope is alive for legalized Texas sports betting in the distant future. While it won’t happen in time for the coming season, it will be a focus of the next legislative session.

When and if Texas gets sports betting, the Cowboys will no doubt be a driving force for the behemoth market.

Before that, let’s look at some previous Dallas Draft picks. Some of the best, some of the worst, and some of the most curious — to get your minds back on football.

The good picks

1977, Tony Dorsett — 2nd overall pick

Dorsett won the Heisman at Pittsburgh, which is no clear mark of NFL potential (think Andre Ware, Eric Crouch or even Reggie Bush).

He was also considered on the small side by scouts at the combine; however, it’s hard to argue anyone was or has been more consistent as a running back in Dallas than Dorsett.

In the 10 years he spent with the Cowboys, he averaged 1,000+ yards in all but three of them. He helped them win Super Bowl XII and landed in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Emmitt Smith might be a more obvious RB pick here — he is the NFL’s leading rusher after all — but we’re giving Dorsett the love for being the trailblazer.

1961, Don Lilly — 13th overall pick

In their second year of existence, the Cowboys selected the TCU All American in the first round.

While the Cowboys only won one Super Bowl during Lilly’s career, Lilly racked up an incredible stat line at both defensive tackle and defensive end and started in 196 straight games.

Lilly missed only one regular-season game in his career, made the NFL All-Decade team in both the 1960s and 70s, and his nickname “Mr. Cowboy” perhaps says all that’s needed to say about this defensive force of the Cowboys’ early years.

1964, Roger Staubach — 129th overall pick

The legends of players that emerge from the late rounds of the draft and rise to NFL glory (Tom Brady, Shannon Sharpe, Bart Starr, Terrell Davis) are among the best in the game.

Staubach, a product of the Navy, arrived in Dallas at a time when the fledgling Cowboys had established themselves as a formidable franchise. Fans though would have to wait a further five years for Staubach to make his debut.

His military obligations as a Navy grad kept him off the field until 1969, but his return ushered in the first Cowboys dynasty in one of the greatest decades in NFL history.

Staubach in Dallas and Terry Bradshaw in Pittsburgh duked it out for the next decade, and while the Cowboys fell twice to Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl, Staubach brought two Super Bowl trophies to Dallas and solidified the dynasty.

Moreover, his career cemented the idea of Dallas Cowboys Quarterback as a rarefied title in professional sports.

The bad eggs

1997, David LaFleur — 22nd overall pick

In the 1990s, there weren’t many tight ends raking in receptions like there are today. Jay Novacek defined that role for the league, and his connection with Troy Aikman during the ’90s dynasty gave the team a dimension that NFL defenses couldn’t handle.

With LaFleur, Aikman essentially picked Novacek’s replacement, expecting him to find the same success over the middle as Novacek. However, the LSU grad racked up only 85 catches in 60 games and 12 total touchdowns in his four-year career.

2008, Felix Jones — 22nd overall pick

Maybe the 22nd pick is cursed or maybe it’s a coincidence. Either way, Jones arrived in Dallas from the University of Arkansas and was expected to produce.

His first game started auspiciously with a kickoff return for a TD, but the hype faded fast after that run. He played a full season twice in his Cowboys career, and his injuries ultimately lost him the starting running back position to rookie Demarco Murray.

Jones settled in as a kick returner and backup RB, which is not what a team’s looking for from their first-round pick.

2017, Taco Charlton — 27th overall pick

Most Cowboys fans are looking squarely at one person for this pick: former defensive coordinator, Rod Marinelli. Marinelli was given a lot — too much, even — control over their draft picks in those years, and this pick was met with the immediate rage that most people associate with draft day despair.

The Cowboys needed a pass rusher, and the options were on the board (Kevin King, Charles Harris) for the Cowboys at 27. King or Harris would have been a good fit, but the other guy the Cowboys yearned for, T.J. Watt, would never fall that low. Or would he?

Incredibly, Watt, the dominant Wisconsin pass rusher, was on the board for Dallas.

A no-brainer pick.

The kind that turns the tides of a franchise.

A gift from the gods.

But, as Marinelli would have it, Taco Charlton’s name was called.

Marinelli, particularly, liked the look of the guy and somehow convinced enough people to step over Watt and sign Charlton. He lasted two seasons, posting meager numbers before he was waived. T.J. Watt, though. That guy can play.

The strange

1967, Pat Riley — 285th overall pick

Slicked-back hair. Great suits. Showtime. The Lakers.

Yes, that Pat Riley.

The Cowboys took the Kentucky Wildcats basketball standout thinking they could turn him into a receiver.

This was the kind of move Gil Brandt, Cowboys VP, thought could set the Cowboys apart.

Well, Riley never suited up for the Cowboys. Instead, he went to the San Diego Rockets as the 7th-overall pick in the 1967 NBA Draft.

1984, Carl Lewis — 332nd overall pick

Another yes, it’s the same guy pick.

Track athletes transitioning to the NFL isn’t that strange.

The Cowboys had done it 20 years before, in fact, with Olympic track athlete Bob Hayes. However, Lewis didn’t take the offer.

It seemed a risk/reward question for Lewis, who knew his greatest successes were on the track and not the gridiron. Nine gold medals suggest he made the right choice.

Still, can you imagine him streaking by a DB? It would’ve been a thing of beauty.

Photo by Ray Stubblebine/Associated Press
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Written by

Tyler Andrews

Tyler is the Managing Editor of play-texas.com, covering sports, sports law, and gambling for the Lone Star State. He also contributes on similar topics for PlayCA, PlayFlorida, PlayOhio, and PlayMA. Tyler’s current focus is Texas’s pathway to gaming legalization.

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Written By Tyler Andrews on March 24, 2022Last Updated on April 22, 2022
Benny Binion

Texas, home to some of the most restrictive gambling laws in the country, has an equally storied history of gambling.

The names and places that define this history echo in the minds and memories of lifelong Texans. And in some cases, reverberate beyond the borders of the Lone Star State.

In this series, we’ll be looking into a few of the people, places, and moments that have defined Texas’s gaming history.

We hope to give you a better understanding of the state’s conflicted relationship with gambling, online casinos in Texas, and the culture they create.

The game rooms of Benny Binion in Dallas, TX

Lester Ben “Benny” Binion, son of a North-Texas horse trader, became as synonymous with the city of Dallas in the early-20th century as any city leader or ranching magnate.

Binion was a chubby man who wore the same model Stetson as LBJ and carried a newspaper under his arm. Although, the newspaper was not for reading — he was professedly illiterate and uneducated — but for concealing a pistol on a restaurant table.

Binion effected a warm and happy demeanor when in the confines of his Southland Hotel at 1200 Main St, Dallas. However, when challenged, he could be as violent as any mobster.

The Southland Syndicate, what his empire of hotels and game rooms came to be called, rose to prominence due to several events; both fortuitous and violent, for both Binion and Dallas.

Oil discovery pulls Dallas out of the Great Depression

The Great Depression spelled disaster for most of the country, Texas included.

But, due to the gambles of people like Columbus Marion “Dad” Joiner, a 70-year-old oil speculator, Dallas pulled itself from poverty into affluence over the success of a single oil well.

Joiner’s Daisy Bradford #3 became the first major discovery well in the East-Texas field. At the time, it was the largest oil region in the world. That well and the many that oilmen drilled around it, brought Dallas to life. And it secured an economy for the likes of Binion and the gambling men that preceded him.

The rise of Warren Diamond

Most prominent among those gambling predecessors and mentors was Warren Diamond, born in Dallas to Irish immigrants. He was, by the accounts of those present at the time, a mathematical genius who controlled 22 casinos in Downtown Dallas during the Roaring Twenties.

Diamond’s casinos principally offered a posh French dice game called craps, and they were notable for hosting the only no-limit craps games in the Northern Hemisphere.

Binion worked under Diamond, taking on menial odd jobs. But he rose in the ranks to become one of Diamond’s most trusted advisors and strongmen. When Diamond committed suicide in 1932, it was Binion who inherited his territories and who consolidated his control over the gambling business in Dallas.


Prohibition had a peculiar effect on Texans in that it retroactively made criminals out of people that had previously embodied the Spirit of the West: individualistic, full of initiative, grit, and resourcefulness.

No longer were small-time poker games and shootouts in the street an acceptable way to do business. No longer could alcohol and prostitution be considered therapeutic treatments for the hardscrabble life most faced.

Prohibition firmly attached the word “vice” to many practices commonplace during the early 20th century. I state this not to opine about the virtues of those days or to judge morals, but to express that many of the people who became outlaws had not intended to be outlaws.

Despite the moral overhaul constructed by Prohibition, many Texas cities, Dallas included, didn’t have a taste for enforcing the new laws with much zeal. As such, Benny Binion turned a lucrative numbers racket and casino syndicate into the biggest gambling empire west of the Mississippi.

Learning from Warren Diamond before him, Binion also provided “protection” for other gambling men and their gambling halls in the city. The fee for this service was usually 25% of the game’s total rake.

This arrangement made Binion very wealthy into the 1930s, but eventually, competition from other gambling houses forced the issue. And Binion found himself in the middle of some violent skirmishes that wouldn’t be out of place in a Spy vs. Spy comic or a Wile E. Coyote cartoon.

Herbert “The Cat” Noble

Herbert “The Cat” Noble took on the role of Binion’s nemesis after Binion killed Noble’s employer, Sam Murray. Murray was a rival gambler who had moved in on Benny’s territory.

What transpired thereafter was Noble’s rise to prominence at a venue called the Airmen’s Club. Binion felt that Noble’s success warranted more than the usual 25% cut of the total rake, and he raised the cost on Noble to 40%.

Noble refused to pay, Binion became irate and thus began a series of violent altercations that left Noble evading eight attempts on his life. This included high-speed car chases down back roads with guns blazing and car bombings which led inadvertently to the death of Noble’s wife.

And even an instance of Binion’s henchmen firing into the fourth-story hospital window where Noble was recovering from gunshot wounds; inflicted, most likely, by the same people shooting into the window.

Noble himself had a mind to assassinate Binion, who had by that time left Dallas to open the lavish Binion’s Horseshoe in Las Vegas.

Noble, an amateur pilot, planned to fly to Vegas from Dallas, pass over Binion’s house and drop lit dynamite on it. He was dissuaded by a law officer friend, and in the end, Binion got the best of Noble.

The ninth attempt on Noble’s life — a bomb planted in his mailbox — proved the fatal one. The Cat was finally out of lives.

When Binion heard of Noble’s death, all he had to say was:

“I’m glad he’s dead.”

Binion’s legacy

Binion’s rap sheet included everything from tire theft to murder. But he never served more than a few years for tax evasion.

He was able to operate at a time in Dallas when laws and morals took a backseat to development and ambition.

However, the end of World War II changed the moral landscape of the country. And the illiterate Binion could read the writing on the wall.

He left Dallas for Las Vegas where he went on to found the World Series of Poker and bring to the world’s attention some of the greatest poker players of that time, most of whom were Texan.

Is his a Texas story?

Were his gambles any different than those of the oil wildcatters or homesteaders that saw cities like Dallas and Fort Worth rise out of the dirt?

Was he Dallas’s Al Capone?

And, if so, does that make him more or less beloved?

These are all questions tied up in Texas’s history with gambling. And we’ll continue to explore them in the coming weeks.

Photo by Associated Press
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Written by

Tyler Andrews

Tyler is the Managing Editor of play-texas.com, covering sports, sports law, and gambling for the Lone Star State. He also contributes on similar topics for PlayCA, PlayFlorida, PlayOhio, and PlayMA. Tyler’s current focus is Texas’s pathway to gaming legalization.

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Written By Tyler Andrews on April 14, 2022Last Updated on April 22, 2022
Texas gambling history looks at the Maceo Syndicate and the Balinese Room

Texas, home to some of the most restrictive gambling laws in the country, has an equally-storied history of gambling.

The names and places that define this history echo in the minds and memories of lifelong Texans. And, in some cases, reverberate beyond the borders of the Lone Star State.

In this series, we look into a few of the people, places, and moments that have defined Texas’s gambling history. We hope to create a better understanding of the state’s conflicted relationship with online casinos, gambling, and the culture it creates.

In the first part of this series looking at the history of gambling in Texas, the focus was on game rooms, shootouts and mailbox bombs.

The Balinese Room

At the height of its popularity, the Balinese Room in Galveston rivaled any casino in the world for style, celebrity, and high-stakes gambling.

During its heyday, from 1942 to 1957, the Balinese regularly hosted A-List celebrities, including:

  • Frank Sinatra
  • Duke Ellington
  • Bob Hope
  • Jane Mansfield
  • The Marx Brothers
  • Tony Bennett

What gave the Balinese Room the gravitational pull to attract people from all over the world? The expression “fortune favors the bold” offers an insight into this glamorous part of Texas’s gambling history.

A Polynesian paradise in South Texas

The Balinese Room spanned a 600-foot pier jutting into the Gulf of Mexico. On a moonless night standing on the dark edge of town, you could look down the miles of seawall on Galveston Island and fixate on the neon lights of the Balinese shooting out to sea.

In the bustling “wide-open” entertainment center that was Galveston, the Balinese served as the hub. The place you were either going to or coming from.

Upon entering, you passed through the first of seven massive green double doors into a world of south seas sensory overload. The cool, refreshing scented air (a mix of sunscreen and old wood) flooded in through a massive cooling system.

The muted earthy tones of the woven mats and bamboo collided with the wavy tropical leaves gashing bright colors through the deep green carpet. A long hallway separated green door one from green door two. And walking down it you passed exotic fish floating like placid gemstones in huge tanks and fantastic birds chirping from their cages overhead.

Fake palms wrapped in lights, murals displaying Polynesian vistas, and chandeliers draped in crystals created moments of wonder, big and small, in the dining room. And this saturating experience continued as you walked deeper into the Balinese.

Through the dining hall, dancing hall, bar, lounge, smoking lounge, private lounge, through green doors three, four, five, six. And finally, at the far end of the pier, past the seventh green door, into the casino.

Clever design fools Rangers for years

The Balinese’s long series of adjoining halls, which was dubbed the “Ranger’s Run,” provided the gamblers and casino operators ample time to hide gaming equipment in the event of a raid.

When the Rangers showed up, the secretary at the first green door would step on a floor buzzer that signaled the backroom players to pack up and the band to strike up the tune, “The Eyes of Texas Are Upon You.

This system left many a Ranger out of breath and wild-eyed after tearing through dining rooms and dance halls and arriving in the gambling hall only to find a few billiards tables, a bingo wheel, and a small crowd of people with school children’s innocence plastered across their faces.

The Maceo brothers

The Balinese, despite the huge draw of its world-class entertainers, existed due to the casino. And the casino existed due to the calculated risks taken by two Sicilian immigrants named Salvatore and Rosario Maceo.

Sam and Rose, as they became known, immigrated from Sicily to Louisiana to Galveston with the hopes of plying their trade as barbers. They arrived around 1910, roughly 10 years after the Galveston Flood wiped out the entire island. And a decade before the Great Depression would wipe out the country.

The Maceo brothers fell in with a flow of vice that veered strongly toward gambling and prostitution. They rose quickly to prominence, establishing a syndicate that supplied the many Galveston casinos with slot machines, gambling tables, and other start-up costs in return for a percentage of the profit.

Sam made sure to invest a good amount of their earnings back into the community. And Rose acted as enforcer, overseeing the Maceo Syndicate’s business practices and acting as an unofficial police force.

At that time, crime, aside from petty stuff, was practically non-existent. The Maceos eventually had eyes everywhere people would want to go, and their justice was swift and silent. As Frank Chalfant, author of Galveston: Island of Chance put it, under the Maceo Syndicate’s oversight “no one was killed who didn’t deserve it.

Surviving the Prohibition Era and the Great Depression

The Maceos did so well that under their influence the combined force of the Great Depression and Prohibition could not quell the rise of the “Free State of Galveston.”

First of all, the Maceos had always taken care to pay off local police and politicians. This carried over into the Prohibition era when they made their first foray into bootlegging. With the police on their side, they were never raided by vice squads.

Second of all, the thriving underground gambling economy was all but ignored by everyone on the island due to the tremendous prosperity it brought. Galveston became something of an island apart from the impoverished mainland.

Money flowed non-stop through Maceo clubs and casinos. And their name grew until Galveston became one of the most popular sin cities in the world.

Great risk, great reward

The Balinese Room represented the culmination of the Maceos’ success. The pier that supported the Balinese had been extended from 300 to 600 feet to hold the massive club.

The 300-foot pier had itself been extended from a mere 100-foot pedestrian pier. That original foot pier was built after the Great Flood wiped out the island. Some might question why Galvestonians would erect such a feeble structure to tempt storms striking with such supreme potency.

The Maceos arrived after the Great Flood, but surely they had heard the stories from the locals who survived it. And those stories must have influenced their decision to place the star of their casino empire on the roiling Gulf waters.

The decisions of the Maceos reflect the intrepid spirit of those early Texans who took great risks and reaped great rewards. The brief run the Balinese Room had in the “wide open” stretches of Texas ended with the Post WWII transformation of the country under the constraints of conservative morality.

The Balinese Room was shut down by the Texas Rangers in 1957 and never again served as a casino. But, authorities revitalized the building, which became a restaurant and historical landmark.

Until it met its ultimate demise in 2008, during, as fate would have it, the devastation of Hurricane Ike.

Photo by Texas Historical Commission/The Portal to Texas History
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Written by

Tyler Andrews

Tyler is the Managing Editor of play-texas.com, covering sports, sports law, and gambling for the Lone Star State. He also contributes on similar topics for PlayCA, PlayFlorida, PlayOhio, and PlayMA. Tyler’s current focus is Texas’s pathway to gaming legalization.

View all posts by Tyler Andrews

Written By Tyler Andrews on March 31, 2022Last Updated on April 22, 2022
What are COAMs in Texas

Coin Operated Amusement Machines, COAMs for short, represent a gray area for states where gambling is concerned.

While this is not as true in Texas as, say, Georgia, understanding where they fit in the gambling landscape might be important. Especially as Texas’s gambling future will be under discussion during the coming legislative session.

COAM is the legal way of describing a range of machines, which most people are already intimately familiar with. They are played for “amusement, pleasure, or skill.” From jukeboxes to classic arcade-style video games, most of us have dropped pockets of coins into COAMs over the years.

The defining feature, as the name implies, is that all COAMs are operated by or after inserting a coin, token, metal slug, bill, electronic card, or check, as laid out in the Texas Occupations Code Chapter 2153.

As Texas sets forth a path to legalized gambling, maybe, here’s a brief history of COAMs in the Texas legal code. And distinguish exactly what qualifies as a COAM and clarify when COAMs shift from legal amusement to illegal gambling machines.

The 1969 Vending Machine Regulatory Act

The Vending Machine Regulatory Act (VMRA), which passed the Texas state legislature in 1969, regulated who could own vending machines, including COAMs.

Also, how they were to be licensed and taxed. And what regulations could be applied to enforce payment of taxes and fees.

In 1971, Texas established the Texas Amusement Machine Commission to enforce the regulations of the VMRA. The VMRA and the Commission focused heavily on establishing oversight for the people dealing with these machines. Meaning those engaged in:

  • Manufacturing
  • Buying
  • Selling
  • Renting
  • Leasing
  • Repairing
  • Transporting them

However, a provision in the act also made the added restriction that anyone who had a financial interest in a vending machine could not also have a competing financial interest in a business that sold alcohol to be consumed on-premises.

Take it to court

In short, it stated that a bar owner could not also own, say, a jukebox or an arcade machine. This, as anyone who’s ever been in a bar could imagine, did not sit well with bar owners.

And so, in 1972 a group of bar owners led by Harry Thompson, a tavern owner, took Robert S. Calvert, the Controller of Public Accounts of the State of Texas and member of the Texas Amusement Machine Commission, to court. The bar owners claimed that the VMRA was a constitutional violation.

They claimed that, while they owned COAMs, they were not “dealing” in them. They, as bar owners, placed them in their taverns to liven up the place. The machines were merely incidental and not the “business” of the tavern owners.

The Supreme Court ruled in Thompson and Co.’s favor, and in 1974, the VMRA was deemed unconstitutional. The VMRA was then stricken from the records. And the Texas Amusement Machine Commission carried on its other regulatory duties until it was formally abolished in 1988.

Texas Occupations Code Chapter 2153

In 1999, Texas revisited the regulations of COAMs with the inclusion of Chapter 2153 in the Occupations Code. This chapter, first and foremost, established the state Comptroller as the chief administrator of COAM regulations.

It went on to delineate the types of machines that would qualify as COAMS and those that wouldn’t. It also made special provisions for overarching regulations regarding COAMs, according to the Texas Penal Code on Gambling.

Your toilet is a service and not for pleasure

The machines that did not fall within the purview of Chapter 2153 were what the Code called “service coin-operated machines.” These included your:

  • Payphones
  • Pay toilets
  • Washer/dryers
  • Other machines that dispense only a service

Owners of these service machines were not subject to the same taxes, registration fees, and penalties as owners of machines that dispensed or afforded amusement, skill, or pleasure.

So what exactly are COAMs?

As the code puts it, the term Coin-Operated Amusement Machine includes:

“a marble machine, marble table machine, marble shooting machine, miniature racetrack machine. Miniature football machine, miniature golf machine, miniature bowling machine, billiard or pool game. Or machine or device that dispenses merchandise or commodities or plays music in connection with or in addition to dispensing skill or pleasure; and (B) does not include an amusement machine designed exclusively for a child.”

Under this regulation were likewise included basic arcade machines.

In all of the above such cases, COAMs are completely legal under Texas law. Assuming that all fees and permits are paid and displayed. However, the Texas Penal Code makes further stipulations on COAMs.

Clear stipulation between COAMs and gambling devices

Most notable is the clear stipulation that anyone who “plays and bets for money or other things of value at any game played with cards, dice, balls, or any other gambling device” is acting illegally unless:

“the contrivance rewards the player exclusively with noncash merchandise that has a wholesale value available from a single play of the game or device of not more than 10 times the amount charged to play the game or device once or $5, whichever is less.”

The short version here, none of these games qualify as COAMs:

  • Slot machines
  • Keno
  • Video card games

Therefore, these are illegal gambling devices prohibited in Texas. So, the distinction is quite clear in Texas between what most people recognize as a casino-style game machine and an arcade machine or coin-operated bar game.

The future of gambling on COAMs

The 2023 Texas Legislative Session will likely see its largest push ever to legalize gambling in various forms. One of the main pushes comes from a Super PAC, led by the family who owns the Sands hotel in Las Vegas.

Sheldon Adelson, former Sands CEO, died in 2021 and is survived by his wife and present CEO of the PAC, Miriam Adelson. The PAC’s goal is the construction of four casino resorts in four major Texas areas:

  • Austin
  • Dallas/Fort Worth
  • Houston
  • San Antonio

Should this legislative push gain ground, you can bet that rows of Vegas-style slot machines will be on display, along with online casinos in Texas.

Photo by Shutterstock
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Written by

Tyler Andrews

Tyler is the Managing Editor of play-texas.com, covering sports, sports law, and gambling for the Lone Star State. He also contributes on similar topics for PlayCA, PlayFlorida, PlayOhio, and PlayMA. Tyler’s current focus is Texas’s pathway to gaming legalization.

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Written By Tyler Andrews on April 22, 2022
Expanded gambling in Texas

At a small town hall in a Dallas suburb, Beto O’Rourke threw his hat into legalized gambling in Texas.

He did so by laying a few options on the table to ease the stress Texans feel around educational reform, the housing boom, and property taxes.

The solution? He made a pitch to legalize casino gambling and sports betting in Texas.

In the lead-up to this year’s gubernatorial election, O’Rourke’s pledge makes him the first of the two major candidates to openly endorse expanded gambling.

In the past few years, O’Rourke’s opponent and the current governor, Greg Abbott, has slowly changed his tune on legalized gambling. But, he’s made no definitive statement about whether he would champion the issue.

Fiscal relief for Texans through expanded gambling

In O’Rourke’s brief stop in Dallas, he told homeowners “to make sure they’re sitting down” before opening their property appraisal notices. Property taxes have been on a precipitous rise over the past few years.

Texas does not have a state property tax, but instead allows local municipalities to assess property taxes to fund:

  • Schools
  • Hospitals
  • Police and fire
  • Basic road repairs

To alleviate this pressure, O’Rourke has said that he will use gambling and sports betting revenue to pull property taxes down.

As we’ve seen in other states, legalizing gaming has resulted in massive taxable returns.

Texas is the second-most populous state in the nation. And as a sports-focused populace, could provide enormous fiscal relief for the state if it expanded gambling.

Jerry Jones and Marc Cuban have both supported and even championed legalized gambling in Texas, with Jones stating, “the writing’s on the wall,” and Cuban claiming that lifting the federal ban on gambling “doubled a franchise’s value.”

Will we see sports owners throw their weight behind O’Rourke in the months leading up to the election?

The Cowboys recently signed a deal with Blockchain.com to become the first NFL team to have a crypto partner. The NBA signed a similar crypto deal last year.

Blockchain technology has opened up an entire metaverse of online gambling. With these Blockchain deals, sports teams are setting themselves up to be a part of that future.

Will legal gambling ‘see the light of day’?

The opponents of legalized gambling like Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick have claimed that “it’s not an issue that’s going to see the light of day.” The Texas Republican Party’s platform even includes the phrasing:

“We oppose and call for a veto of any budget that relies on expansion of legalized gambling as a method of finance.”

Despite such vehement diction, a recent poll indicates that only 26% of Texans oppose the idea of legalizing sports betting in the state.

One also needs only to zoom out to the surrounding states to get a barometer for what the region desires. Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Louisiana have legalized casino gambling.

Louisiana and Arkansas offer legal sports betting. Texans currently file across those state lines every day, giving their money to the adjacent economies.

Or just as likely, they make the riskier choice of betting offshore.

Further, money from major out-of-state gambling proponents, notably the Las Vegas Sands PAC, have funneled money into the state in support of casino gambling and sports betting.

The argument against these trends is a moralistic one rooted in Texas’s conflicted history with gambling (a history which we have been examining on the site).

The gubernatorial election in November and the 2023 legislative session are shaping up to be heavily influenced by pro-gaming interests. In which case, gambling will likely see “the light of day” in the next year.

Beyond receiving legislative attention, legalized gambling will need a two-thirds vote in both houses to become an amendment for voters.

Photo by Eric Gay / Associated Press
Tyler Andrews Avatar
Written by

Tyler Andrews

Tyler is the Managing Editor of play-texas.com, covering sports, sports law, and gambling for the Lone Star State. He also contributes on similar topics for PlayCA, PlayFlorida, PlayOhio, and PlayMA. Tyler’s current focus is Texas’s pathway to gaming legalization.

View all posts by Tyler Andrews

Written By Tyler Andrews on April 20, 2022
Collegiate player-data partnerships could soon mean serious money from sportsbooks

Selling player data represents an opportunity for collegiate bodies to make serious money if sports betting agencies tap into it.

More than two dozen states have legalized sports betting in some form in recent months. Between six and eight more states could follow suit this year. This comes after the Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, the 1992 law that barred state-authorized sports gambling.

In light of this, collegiate sports groups are turning their gaze to gamblingbased revenue streams emerging out of this new landscape.

Player-data partnerships could cloud legalization

There are states, however, where legalized gaming is not on the horizon – Texas being the biggest state. Legal Texas online sports betting could happen in 2023, depending on the state legislature.

In such states, player-data partnerships muck the already cloudy water for legislators looking to maintain the status quo.

Beyond the implications for legalized gaming, selling player data has equallycomplex implications. These lie in another battleground in college sports: the amateur status of players. If player data starts getting sold to data firms, who stands to gain in the deal?

Scholarly pursuits and big-time deals

For reference, Alston v. NCAA ruled that educational scholarships could not be restricted as severely by the NCAA. Additionally, there is a current NCPA complaint alleging that black athletes are uniquely disadvantaged in terms of scholarships.

If these factors are any indication, current player-data partnerships might spark the ire of everyone involved in compensating players.

At the moment, two conferences, the MAC and the PAC12, have made deals with different data firms. This comes one year after the NBA and NFL made similar deals. This profited the two leagues more than $100 million in just the first year.

We’ll take a look at what those deals mean for the conferences involved. What effect could these have on the sports gaming industry?

The MAC and Genius Sports

The Middle America Conference (MAC) and London-based Genius Sports made a five-year deal in early March that gives Genius Sports the right to manage and market all statistics for all sports in the conference. Included in this deal is the condition that sports betting agencies wishing to purchase this data must pay the MAC directly for access to it.

This kind of granular, realtime data allows sportsbooks to set the most accurate, up-to-the-minute lines. It also gives them the ability to offer what is being called microbets. These bets allow the bettor to decide such things as the 21st, 22nd, or 23rd point of the game. This advantage creates a huge impact on what the sportsbooks are able to offer.

This year’s March Madness was quite possibly the most significant sporting period for microbetting.

PointsBet was the only online book offering microbets. These bets were based on PointsBet’s unofficial data system allowing them to set odds at a frenetic pace.

PointsBet made a major gamble, as a flaw in the algorithm could result in huge losses. Even worse, it could cause the locking out of bettors in the periods when scores start changing quickly.

What Genius Sports seeks to do for the MAC is provide security and stability for the implementation of this data, whether shared for fun or profit.

If the relationship between Genius and the MAC works out, questions remain about whether sportsbooks choosing to offer microbets should be mandated to use the official data offered by groups like Genius.

PAC-12 and Tempus Ex Machina

The PAC12 followed the MAC in a deal of their own with the California technology company Tempus Ex Machina. This deal, unlike the MAC deal, did not make allowances for the sale of player data to sportsbooks.

However, the fact that PAC-12 network’s President, Mark Shugan, said the deal does not “currently” allow for sportsbooks to use the data seems to suggest that the potential exists. Tempus plans to launch their platform this fall for a range of freetoplay opportunities and other data-driven products.

One of the products they’ll be offering to all PAC-12 schools is a library of all the camera feeds available from all PAC-12 games. This way, schools can search for footage based on a player’s name, number, or even style of play.

The main goal of PAC-12’s current deal is “fan engagement,” as reiterated by both the conference and Tempus.

Making collegiate data accessible for Sportsbooks

When the NFL and NBA launched their player-data deals, Sportradar (the company managing their data) had only one overarching body on their hands per sport. This is where the ambiguity creeps in with college sports. As Bill King reported at Sports Business Journal:

“The schools hold the keys to the data from their home games, the conferences own their tournaments and championship games, the NCAA owns March Madness and other championships and the CFP is its own thing entirely.”

With so many governing bodies, the data sportsbooks would need would come from numerous fragmented sources. At this point, assuming all the major conferences jump into these partnerships, the turnaround time for sportsbooks to have fully-operable, official real-time data for sports fans seems at least one to two years off.

What’s in it for the athlete?

With millions of dollars in potential revenue for all conferences that jump on board, the question about what is owed to the players will surely arise. And one of the most controversial debates within this conversation revolves around health metrics.

In the case of their health records, players could argue that conferences have no right to sell such information. If companies like Genius do not parse out this data to keep personal health records private, players will likely seek a legal injunction to protect themselves.

Furthermore, the players could make an intellectual property claim on the data being sold. Since, one could easily argue, they are the authors of most of it. The upshot here seems to be the very conspicuous fact that most of this data relies not on the quality of play, but the very act of playing the game.

Capitalizing on data

As the MAC and PAC-12 await the financial gains that will surely come with the sale of their player data, the question of betting on this data forces the question of compensating the players for it.

Can the NCAA fit these new deals into its narrative of providing the best product possible to its customers? Can they sell them, maintaining the integrity of amateur collegiate sports?

Genius and Tempus Ex Machina begin to market their new data platforms this fall. These questions will find themselves part and parcel of that rollout.

Photo by Eric Gay / Associated Press
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Tyler is the Managing Editor of play-texas.com, covering sports, sports law, and gambling for the Lone Star State. He also contributes on similar topics for PlayCA, PlayFlorida, PlayOhio, and PlayMA. Tyler’s current focus is Texas’s pathway to gaming legalization.

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Written By Rylee Bailey on April 19, 2022
NFL lawsuit alleges racial discrimination

Two more NFL coaches joined former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Floresclass-action lawsuit. The lawsuit, filed earlier this year, alleges racial discrimination within the league’s hiring processes.

The lawsuit comes as the NFL has added a specific hiring mandate to the Rooney Rule. The mandate requires each franchise to hire a minority or female offensive assistant.

Although sports betting in Texas is not legal, topics like this are important to NFL and sports-loving readers who hope to have legal sports betting in the future.

Steve Wilks and Ray Horton join the lawsuit

Former Arizona Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks alleges the Arizona Cardinals discriminated against him in 2018. And longtime defensive coach Ray Horton claims he faced discriminatory treatment when interviewing for the Tennessee Titans head coach position in 2016.

Wilks claims the Cardinals treated him as a “bridge coach” and gave him no meaningful opportunity to succeed, as he coached a rookie quarterback and had no general manager in the preseason.

Wilks was fired after only one year. Wilks says current Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury “has been given a much longer leash than Mr. Wilks and, to his credit, has succeeded.”

Horton claims he received a “sham interview” with the Titans in 2016. He believes the team had already decided on Mike Mularkey to fill the head coach vacancy.

Horton’s complaint cites a 2020 podcast interview with Mularkey in which he described his hiring experience with the Titans.

“I allowed myself at one point when I was in Tennessee to get caught up in something I regret, and I still regret it[.] But the ownership there, Amy Adams Strunk and her family, came in and told me I was going to be the head coach in 2016, before they went through the Rooney Rule. And so, I sat there knowing I was the head coach in 2016, as they went through this fake hiring process knowing, knowing a lot of the coaches that they were interviewing Knowing how much they prepared to go through those interviews, knowing that everything they could do and they had no chance to get that job.”

Flores’ original lawsuit

In February, Flores filed a class-action lawsuit in New York against the NFL and three of its franchises. The suit alleges racial discrimination within the league’s teams’ hiring processes which was in violation of:

  • Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866
  • The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination
  • New York State Human Rights Law
  • And New York City Human Rights Law

Despite two consecutive winning seasons, the first since 2001 for the franchise, the Miami Dolphins fired Flores following the 2021 season.

He now contends that the New York Giants interviewed him as a simple move to satisfy the Rooney Rule. And he’s now seeking unspecified economic and punitive damages along with injunctive relief “to cure Defendants’ discriminatory policies and practices.”

Flores said in a statement:

“God had gifted me with a special talent to coach the game of football But the need for change is bigger than my personal goals. In making the decision to file the (complaint), I understand that I may be risking coaching the game that I love And that has done so much for my family and me. My sincere hope is that by standing up against system racism in the NFL, others will join me to ensure that positive change is made for generations to come.”

The NFL, diversity and the Rooney Rule

Following recommendations by the league’s Workplace Diversity Committee in 2003, the NFL adopted the Rooney Rule. The NFL named the rule after then chairman of the committee, Dan Rooney, the late owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Rooney Rule initially focused on the historically low number of minorities in head coaching positions within the league. The policy originally required each team with a head coaching vacancy to interview at least one “diverse candidate before making a new hire.”

Throughout the years, the Rooney Rule has expanded its provisions:

  • 2009: The NFL amended the rule to include general manager positions. Requiring each team to interview a minimum of two external minority candidates.
  • 2020: Franchise owners approved an amendment to the rule rewarding teams who had minority staff members go on to become GMs or head coaches within the league.
  • 2021: The NFL approved changes requiring each team with open head coach positions to interview at least one external minority candidate for a coordinator position. This amendment also required the NFL to interview at least one minority and/or female candidate for senior-level positions.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says the most recent update “bolster(s) the current Rooney Rule requirements and are intended to create additional opportunities for diverse candidates to be identified, interviewed, and ultimately hired when a vacancy becomes available.”

Photo by Brynn Anderson/Associated Press
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Rylee Bailey is an award-winning freelance journalist from Texas. She is wrapping up her senior year at Southern Methodist University and has been writing since she was in high school. Previously, Rylee covered North Texas High School football for the Dallas Morning News and has bylines in Casino Player and the Kaufman Herald.

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Written By Tyler Andrews on April 18, 2022
Texas eight-liners

A Texas Appeals Court in Fort Worth found on April 11 that eight-liner slot machines were unconstitutional and therefore illegal.

This ruling culminated over five years of legal scuffles between game room operators and city officials decrying their deleterious effects on the community. No longer can these gaming staples hide behind an obscure loophole colloquially known as the “fuzzy animal” exception.

Eight-liner operators will instead have to accept the reality that their machines are technically “lotteries,” which the Texas State Constitution outlaws in almost every sense.

They are named eight liners due to the game of chance where symbols that line up in one of eight lines — three horizontal, three vertical, or two diagonal — win a prize.

The only type of coin-operated games allowed in Texas are coin operated amusement machines, or COAMs. And even COAMs have a long history of legal controversy in the state. Also, the only legal form of lottery in Texas is the Texas Lottery.

Eight-liners lived in a ‘fuzzy’ legal area for years

In 1993, Texas passed a statutory amendment to the state Penal Code creating space for eight-liner slot machines in game rooms.

This amendment relaxed the previous statute that made all “gambling devices – electrical, electromechanical, or mechanical” – illegal. It stipulated that a slot machine would be legal if it produced a prize “not more than 10 times the amount charged to play the game or device once or $5, whichever is less.”

This stipulation became known as the “fuzzy animal” exception because it allowed for gaming machines that produced stuffed animal prizes. The spirit of the law focused on places like Peter Piper Pizza and Chuck E. Cheese. However, adult game rooms proliferated greatly through their ability to now offer eight-liner slot machines that paid out small-scale, non-cash prizes.

Owners typically placed game rooms inconspicuously in strip malls, at the far end of parking lots, and other out-of-the-way settings. That’s because city officials were concerned with the clientele who frequented them and the eyesore they could become for the community.

Game room operators have skirted the issue of having to offer up novelty items for play in several ways. Most of which have been challenged and struck down in court.

For example, winners have received gift certificates for local grocery stores in denominations of $5 or less. They have also received vouchers to play different games in the game room.

In both cases, the court ruled that the prizes represented cash-related prizes and so were not permitted. Other practices in game rooms allow players to “bank” prizes. That is, to win prizes larger than $5, similar to the way children save skeeball tickets. This too has been struck down in the courts.

Now, however, the Texas Appellate court has dispensed with debating “fuzzy animal” exceptions. And instead ruled against eight liners using a preemptive constitutionality claim.

In simplest terms, eight-liners are lotteries

The Texas State Constitution in its earliest iteration (1845) defined the lottery as a game that entailed “chance, consideration, and prize.” While this definition doesn’t draw to mind the lottery most people are familiar with, the conditions are there:

  • Chance: The potential to win is left to chance
  • Consideration: A payment is needed to participate
  • Prize: A prize of tangible value (typically monetary) is awarded to the winner

What the Texas Appellate Court ruled on April 11 was that eight liners are nothing more than a lottery, and lotteries, except for state lotteries, are illegal.

As mentioned, this case has been moving around the Texas court system for over five years, with rulings typically addressing the varying limitations of the fuzzy animal exception and the taxing of game rooms.

What the city of Fort Worth has most recently claimed is that the fuzzy animal exception is a legal ploy. One meant to circumvent the state constitution’s language outlawing lotteries, which eight-liners are.

In the current case, City of Fort Worth v. Rylie, the defendants’ argument in favor of eight liners relied on the courts making special provisions for what it deemed as “lotteries,” since the original definition of the term was overly broad and most people would never associate a slot machine with a lottery.

In a sense, Rylie and her co-defendents hoped to keep eight-liners in the legal gray area. They hoped to create another exception similar to the fuzzy animal exception. The court flatly denied this claim since the basic premise of an eight-liner slot machine “inarguably conforms to the constitutional meaning of ‘lottery’” and no such redefining is needed.

The future of eight-liners now rests with voters

There is a good chance that the appeals court’s ruling will make its way to the Texas Supreme Court again. But it seems unlikely the Court will waver from the appellate court’s decision.

The only remaining avenue for these machines is a constitutional amendment. That would entail a two-thirds majority in both houses and a vote by the public.

Legislation addressing legalized gambling will heavily influence the 2023 legislative session. And that makes plenty of room for eight-liners to receive attention. Whether they receive the votes needed to show up on the ballot will foretell much of the current legislature’s taste for legalized gaming in Texas.

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Tyler is the Managing Editor of play-texas.com, covering sports, sports law, and gambling for the Lone Star State. He also contributes on similar topics for PlayCA, PlayFlorida, PlayOhio, and PlayMA. Tyler’s current focus is Texas’s pathway to gaming legalization.

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Written By Tyler Andrews on April 13, 2022Last Updated on April 14, 2022
Texas NIL NCAA partnerships could exploit athletes at Texas A&M and other Texas universities

When the Supreme Court ruled in Alston v. NCAA that colleges could not regulate education-based scholarships as stringently as they had, the NCAA prudently decided to let up on their planned Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) regulations as well.

Maybe the lawsuits were wearing them down.

Regardless, they left the lid open on the evolving NIL partnership industry that has been called the “Wild West” by everyone involved in it.

The NCAA’s interim plan to support NIL partnerships

Last year, the NCAA sent a memo establishing their “interim” NIL policy led in 2019 by California’s SB 206. The policy memo was in response to several states that defied historical NCAA laws prohibiting collegiate athletes from making money off their NIL.

The bland tone of the memo obscured the obvious consternation the NCAA felt at their inability to manage the situation:

“With the variety of state laws adopted across the country, we will continue to work with Congress to develop a solution that will provide clarity on a national level. The current environment — both legal and legislative — prevents us from providing a more permanent solution and the level of detail student-athletes deserve.”

It may have seemed like a temporary concession, but this memo opened a pandora’s box. One of fast dealings, powerful collectives, and web services all descending on teenagers looking to make high six-figure deals during their collegiate careers.

The other element at play, even if not immediate, is sports betting. Legalized Texas online sports betting could be massive, if and when it ever happens, but how would it impact college athletics and athletes?

NIL regulations at the state level

While the NCAA tries to control the narrative around NIL partnerships, the rules for NIL partnerships lie entirely at the state level.

Currently, 28 states permit NIL partnerships in some form. And the NCAA’s interim plan requires that schools in states that allow NIL partnerships must comply with those laws.

Law firms have NIL state trackers updating the states with NIL legislation on the horizon. At the moment, 16 more states have NIL legislation on the docket. Currently, the only states with no NIL policies are:

  • Alaska
  • Delaware
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Maine
  • North Dakota
  • South Dakota
  • Utah
  • Wyoming

Recruitment and donor collectives

From a student-athlete perspective, recruitment is now heavily influenced by NIL partnership opportunities. For top athletes, these decisions are monumental.

The Athletic recently reported on a Five-Star football recruit who penned an NIL deal worth upwards of $8 million. That number is certainly an outlier, but six-figure deals are more common than five-figure deals for high-profile collegiate athletes.

Furthermore, this process puts high school students in a similar position to college students entertaining the One and Done Rule.

Quinn Ewers, a Texas high school standout QB and one of the top recruits in the country, left high school after his junior year to enroll at Ohio State. The deciding factor: a hefty NIL deal.

What are donor collectives?

Wading into this fast-paced stream of social media deals, public appearances, and brand ambassadorship, are third-party groups. These groups have no direct university affiliation but a heavy interest in funneling recruits into their favored schools.

These “donor collectives” typically represent wealthy alumni of major universities interested in brokering NIL deals for incoming students. They operate largely outside of NCAA regulations to get student-athletes into their schools.

In some iterations, fans sign up with these collectives to get access to:

  • Athletes signed memorabilia
  • Meet and greets
  • Events featuring the athletes

While in others, the collective puts athletes in touch with businesses looking to sponsor them.

The collectives-as-brokers take a cut but funnel the majority of earnings to the player. What makes this different from illegal booster donations is that the students must do “something” to get paid by these collectives.

“Something” is the language of the NCAA’s interim memo. And collectives are having a field day imagining ways to get players to do “something” before signing them a huge check.

NIL impact on smaller colleges

From the perspective of the schools, the stakes are equally high. Take a school like South Dakota State University. They’re a small Division I mid-major that had a great 2022 basketball season and almost knocked off Providence in the March Madness opening round.

The Jackrabbits were well-coached, play in a relatively weak conference and have the making of a future Cinderella story. South Dakota State has a lot in common with a team like Wichita State, who, after a few years of barely making the tournament, rolled to the Final Four in 2013 as a 9 seed and sent three players to the NBA.

However, if South Dakota maintains its stance on outlawing NIL deals, the recruitment pool dwindles significantly. As do the chances of SDSU or any team in a state outlawing NIL deals.

NIL compliance

A student-athlete in the position of the aforementioned Quinn Ewers, a 17-year-old standout with enormous potential, doesn’t have a college counselor to help him better understand NIL laws by state.

Mikey Williams, a 17-year-old North Carolina prep school basketball phenom, doesn’t have a high school coach to give him the basics on signing a shoe deal that might limit where he goes to college.

As this is the case all across the country in the first year of legal NIL dealings, another industry is taking shape. The NIL compliance industry.

Spry, founded by Wake Forest alum Lyle Adams, is labeled as a “collegiate sports compliance platform.”

The platform aims to help athletes organize all their NIL deals. And communicate them to the necessary parties at their universities.

In the absence of school officials providing the counsel for student-athletes, platforms like Spry and Athliance have stepped in with paid “pro” versions of their platforms and consultation services.

As state laws vary in what they permit in NIL partnerships, these for-profit companies represent the most comprehensive solutions available to students.

It’s a runaway train

The NCAA, by being so gun shy about putting restrictions on what students can earn via NIL partnerships has set a wide-open precedent. And companies are going full tilt at younger and younger players.

Coaches, parents, and universities are all along for the ride, and, presumably, they’re waiting for someone to hit the brakes. The problem is no one knows who that will be.

For Mark Stoops, head coach of University of Kentucky football, the trepidation in his tone is clear:

“Not to say we all don’t want more for the players. I’m not sure this is exactly what we had in mind. This is a runaway train.”

Photo by Sam Craft / Associated Press
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Tyler is the Managing Editor of play-texas.com, covering sports, sports law, and gambling for the Lone Star State. He also contributes on similar topics for PlayCA, PlayFlorida, PlayOhio, and PlayMA. Tyler’s current focus is Texas’s pathway to gaming legalization.

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Written By Chris Imperiale on April 11, 2022Last Updated on April 14, 2022
Dallas Cowboys blockchain NFT sponsorships

The National Football League is the latest to introduce the expansion into the world of blockchains. It sent out a memo a few weeks ago stating that NFL teams can find potential blockchain sponsorships for the upcoming season.

This ruling is a change of heart from league offices, which banned deals around cryptocurrency and NFTs right before the opening week.

For those who are unaware, a blockchain is a form of a digital record book of transactions across a network of computers. It encompasses cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.

Now that the NFL conducted its assessment of the technology, teams can begin finding new partners for 2022. The decision also follows reports that the league lobbied the Securities and Exchange Commission for six months last year.

It spent a total exceeding $600,000 in petitioning both chambers of Congress, among others.

Although NFL teams can’t utilize blockchain sponsors through stadium signage, it’s a major step to move into this space.

While crypto promotions based around fan engagement remain restricted, it seems like things are headed in that direction. Given the pivot from the NFL on gambling, when money is involved, moves like this aren’t surprising.

Throw in the possibility of legal Texas online sports betting in 2023, this is just the start of major change when it comes to sponsorships and the NFL (especially in the Lone Star State).

NFL moves into blockchain sponsorships

In addition to teams having the ability to seek out new technological sponsors, the NFL’s memo said teams can also secure limited permissions on NFTs.

NFL Chief Revenue Officer, Renie Anderson, and Chief Media and Business Officer, Brian Rolapp, delivered the notice.

Part of the agreement in place is that any partnerships with blockchain companies are limited to just three years. The NFL’s head of consumer products, Joe Ruggiero, discussed how this gives the league some “flexibility for the long term” and optimism about this latest venture.

According to CNBC, Ruggiero said:

“We’re extremely bullish on blockchain technology. We think that it has a lot of potential to really shape innovation, shape fan engagement over the course of the coming decade.”

Before diving in headfirst, the NFL wanted to ensure what it was potentially tying its brand to in terms of blockchains. The memo stated:

“In this evolving regulatory environment, it remains essential that we proceed carefully when evaluating potential commercial opportunities involving blockchain technologies, and conduct appropriate diligence on all potential partners and their business models.”

The league’s slight hesitation in regards to this progress is evident based on the contract limitations to three years and the lack of blockchain signage.

Still, this opens the door to a lot of other potential endeavors down the line. Given how important fan engagement is for teams and leagues, any way to get an advantage will eventually get considered.

Cryptocurrency deals in major American sports leagues

Besides just individual NFL teams branching out into blockchain partnerships, the league as a whole is considering a move. Its official blockchain rights could bring in a massive figure.

In October 2021, the NBA struck a deal with the cryptocurrency company Coinbase. Over four years, the sponsorship provides $192 million for the league.

It’s likely the NFL would generate an even bigger agreement.

As far as teams go, the NBA set the initial precedent there, as well. The Golden State Warriors signed a contract with the cryptocurrency platform FTX in December 2021, netting them $10 million for their international rights.

Then there’s a slightly different avenue that’s closely related to NFTs.

The NFL already has a partner in place, announcing its plans right before sending out this latest memo. The league, along with the NFLPA, formed a collaboration with Dapper Labs to produce exclusive digital video NFTs that include highlights of the best plays from the season.

By using Dapper Labs’ “cutting-edge blockchain technology,” the NFL is allowing fans to obtain these collectible moments.

That’s not the only NFT deal in place, either. The NFL also utilizes Panini for NFT trading cards.

Fans may have noticed that the league allowed its media partners to feature ads regarding blockchain companies last year, too.

Players get in on the action

There are also lots of players getting involved.

The NFL co-owns Fanatics, which recently invested in the NFT brand Candy Digital. One of the company’s investors is Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning.

Others like Tampa Bay teammates Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski are in the NFT space, with Brady’s “Autograph” earning plenty of funding in January.

Of course, the NFL plans to keep considering everything included with such an evolving market. Ruggiero said:

“Everything is changing so quickly – we all have to be looking at the next areas of innovation. So, we’re spending a lot of time looking at where the future might go.”

It appears like this is just the beginning for the NFL and other sports leagues in terms of relationships with blockchain technology.

Photo by Brandon Wade / Associated Press
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Chris Imperiale

Chris Imperiale covers sports betting and the online casino industries. He has a journalism degree from Rutgers University and was formerly on staff at Bleacher Report.

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