Gaming Company 888 Sees Partnership With NY Jets As A Good Bet

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The Dallas Cowboys, and, more recently, the Green Bay Packers have signed partnerships with native American casinos, and the Oakland Raiders have a deal with Caesars Entertainment as they get closer to their move to Las Vegas.

But the New York Jets last week extended a partnership with 888 Holdings that company executive Yaniv Sherman said is a bit different.

“NFL teams have deals with land-based gaming companies, but ours is the only pure digital destination,” Sherman told NJ Online Gambling on Wednesday. “We wanted to be associated with an East Coast [NFL] brand.”

Sherman said that last year’s one-year deal with the Jets was something of a trial run.

“Both sides were testing the waters, and we weren’t sure how the NFL felt about it,” Sherman said. “The Jets did some work with the NFL, and we were able to come up with a partnership at similar terms. Everything is much clearer than last year. The Jets are considered a pioneer.

“We have made adjustments so that we have more of an online presence with the Jets, more radio spots, we’re featured on the jumbo [MetLife Stadium] TV screens, and so on,” Sherman added.

NFL and gambling companies?

Now, this might be the point where you wonder, “Wait, not only did the NFL lead the way in spending six years suing New Jersey to try to stop sports betting, they are by far the most resistant sports league to such gambling. What happened?”

It’s important to realize that the new deal is with 888casino.com, as New Jersey is one of few states that allows online casino gambling and 888 is a player in that realm as well.

Of course, the longterm goal for 888 would be to have their 888sport.com sports betting website directly tied in with the team.

For now, Sherman says, “No one can promote sports betting with the NFL. We are defined as ‘the official online casino.’ But maybe this is a head start.”

As an official team sponsor, 888 will get a perk usually reserved for more established brands: the chance to be chief sponsor for one of the Jets’ eight regular-season home games. Their opportunity comes on Monday, Oct. 21, when the formidable New England Patriots come to the Meadowlands.

“Those spots are reserved for blue-chip brands,” Sherman said.

888 is evaluating what other team sponsorships might be worth investing in down the road.

“The football season is very short, and it ends in January,” Sherman said. “There are pluses and minuses compared to other sports, which have more games but they play in front of smaller audiences than football.

“The challenge is to make sure we’re effective and that we drive traffic, and we don’t get lost in the crowd,” Sherman said.

Other pro sports team/gaming deals

Last fall the Jets also signed a deal with MGM as the official “gaming partner” of the franchise. Sherman said that sports teams typically are seeking multiple gambling-based companies as sponsors.

The NHL’s New Jersey Devils, for instance, have deals with William Hill, Caesars, and FanDuel.

In the NFL, the Cowboys last year signed on WinStar Casino — located just over the state border in Oklahoma — as their official casino partner.

The Packers, meanwhile, upped the ante in August on their longstanding deal with Oneida Nation to allow the tribe to advertise its casino business at Lambeau Field.

In January, the NFL itself signed a partnership — this one exclusive — to make Caesars its “official casino sponsor” for a reported $30 mm annually. Caesars also has at least a half-dozen deals with NFL teams similar to its deal with the Raiders.

After standing alone last NFL season, New Jersey is now joined by New York, Pennsylvania, and Indiana as states with both NFL teams and legal sports betting.

New York doesn’t allow mobile sports betting, but today Indiana will become the third “NFL state” with that option. So Jets, Giants, Eagles, Steelers, and now Colts fans can legally wager before and during games as they sit in the stadium stands.

With fans able to bet at MetLife Stadium and with 888 having an official partnership with the Jets — albeit for online casino play — we asked Sherman if it ever felt tempting to try to merge the two.

“Oh, I don’t want to mess with the NFL,” Sherman said. “I have seen how they tackle.”

Photo by David Butler II / USA Today Sports

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John Brennan

John Brennan has covered NJ and NY sports business and gaming since 2002 and was a Pulitzer Prize Finalist in 2008, while reporting for The Bergen County Record.

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