Prior to the 2022 NFL season, the the league’s Vice President and General Manager of Sports Betting, David Highhill discussed the responsibilities in his new role with the SBC Leaders Magazine.

He also outlined why the league has decided to focus more on sports wagering this season and the NFL’s perspective on the potential
future direction of its relationship with the industry moving forward.

SBC: Congratulations on your appointment as the NFL’s Vice President and General Manager of
Sports Betting. What will you be responsible for in this role?

DH: Thank you! It is very exciting to be able to work with such a talented team across the NFL and our partners. I’ve been lucky enough to work at the League Office across a variety of areas, including strategic planning, esports, and club services group. However, sports betting represents our most interconnected and cross-functional opportunity across our game, fans and partners.

My role is to help coordinate the League’s strategy in our key sports betting pillars – driving fan engagement, advancing our brand and protecting the integrity of our games. This includes coordination with the League Office, our clubs and our partners. It’s a wide remit, and one of the most exciting opportunities to drive fan engagement in sports.

SBC: With your new role, why has the League decided to focus more on sports betting this upcoming season? 

DH: There has been a cross-functional team at the NFL that has been laser focused on sports betting for several years. We’ve benefited greatly from the expertise and dedication of this team, and I’ve enjoyed working with them to develop and advance our plans over the past seasons. 

As the scope of sports betting continues to expand across so many disparate areas of our business, it was time to have a dedicated unit to manage this increasingly complex initiative. 

SBC: Sports betting adverts were aired for the first time during NFL games last season. What has been the League’s evaluation of this development in its relationship with sports wagering? 

DH: Our approach to sports betting has been deeply informed by data to understand our fan perceptions and to serve those who are interested in betting while not disrupting the experiences of our fans who are not interested. 

We rely on our blue-chip partners to deliver incremental experiences to our betting-interested fans – this includes an array of shoulder programming, data, statistics and second screen experiences like free-to-play games. 

It is critical to pair these initiatives with a robust platform supporting responsible betting, as well as avoiding oversaturation of betting messaging across our platforms. We continue to monitor our fan behaviours and attitudes in this space and we will evolve our approach as the research informs us. 

SBC: Several NFL teams have already secured partnerships with sports betting brands. What limitations has the NFL set for teams regarding these deals? Is it just market access or can they go beyond that?

DH: Our Clubs can sign their own sports betting partnerships, which are separate from our League partnerships. Clubs have been excited about the opportunity to serve their fans with new content and to enhance the in-stadium experience. 

We’ve seen a variety of innovative activations from clubs, including sportsbook credits with ticket purchases or renewals, unique hospitality and access, in-stadium sports betting lounges, free-to-play games and a range of digital and TV content. 

Our clubs and their partners have been creative in their approach, and our research shows fans have been receptive to these activations. Several clubs are also located in states that provide sportsbook operators market access benefits if they partner with a professional sports team. With these arrangements, the partner operates all elements of the sports betting business.  

SBC: In the future, will the NFL allow advertisements on their jerseys? If so, will sports betting operators be allowed to advertise? 

DH: The NFL does not have any plans to allow sponsor branding on game jerseys. Broadly, we want to remain thoughtful about how sports betting shows up in and around our games, and to ensure that we are targeted in our approach. 

SBC: Will the NFL ever operate its own sportsbook or allow teams to do so separately from their current partnerships?

DH: Our policies do not allow for clubs to operate a sports betting business. We think it is in our collective best interests to serve our fans the ways we know best through live experiences and content, and have no plans to operate a sportsbook. 

SBC: For both NFL fans, players and staff, what is the League doing to protect the integrity of the game as sports betting becomes a larger part of its ecosystem? 

DH: The integrity of the game has always been a central point of focus for the League and our clubs – well before the repeal of PASPA, and of course afterwards. We have a multifaceted approach in this space. 

We have a comprehensive integrity and compliance programmes that focuses on education and training modules related to our gambling policies. We also have robust integrity monitoring software and services, which include in-house resources and external providers. 

We continue to advocate for key integrity provisions in legislation, including know your customer, anti-money laundering, and information sharing. We continue to identify and assess integrity risks across the League and clubs to evaluate and enhance our integrity and compliance programme.

SBC: Atlanta Falcons WR Calvin Ridley has been suspended indefinitely through at least the conclusion of the 2022 season for betting on games. What has the NFL learned from this Incident?

DH: As mentioned, the integrity of the game has been and will always be a top priority. We have a comprehensive gambling prevention programme. Our platform was supported and amplified by our clubs and our corporate partners. 

We will continue to be a leader in this space. Expect to see additional fan-facing communications, PSAs and support from our partners. Responsible betting is an area that is critically important to us.

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