Sponsorships Not Worth Gamble for Pro Teams?

PointsBet might finally trigger change in the United States gambling business.

The company’s recent decision back home might prove more informative to the future of the legal sports betting industry in the United States than its points-betting system ever was.

And it could all start with a National Rugby League team in Woolooware, Southern Sydney, Australia.

Citing changing social attitudes toward gambling, PointsBet opted not to renew its exclusive naming rights deal with the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks. The grounds became PointsBet Stadium as part of a six-year deal beginning in 2019. PointsBet Australia CEO Andrew Catterall told Mumbrella:

“Our naming rights deal for PointsBet Stadium has been a fantastic partnership, and under different circumstances, is an agreement that we would have been very keen to renew. However, community attitudes to gambling advertising have changed, and stadium naming rights and perimeter signage are no longer appropriate for the category.”

Catterall said PointsBet would support the Sharks with a “different partnership arrangement” that “will align with the expectations of the wider community under what we anticipate to be a reformed national gambling advertising regime.”

Views On Gambling, Advertising Blitz Bubbling Globally

This is more than a Down Under debate.

With sports betting now legal and underway in 38 US states and jurisdictions, citizen outrage over the volume of advertisements has prompted regulators to consider restrictions eventually coming to England. 

Under government pressure, the English Premier League has agreed to phase out front-of-shirt gambling sponsorships by the end of the 2025-26 seasons. 

Teams have continued to add new gambling partners before the deadline, however. 

So far, the only top-four domestic professional league venue with naming rights owned by a sports betting brand is the Caesars Superdome. Most teams have some sort of gambling partnership.

Hard Rock International owns the rights to the Dolphins’ Miami-area stadium but is more known for its restaurants and hotels. 

gambling naming rights
Photo: Associated Press

Many MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL venues have retail sportsbooks in or adjacent, however. Three of them are owned by Fanatics, which acquired PointsBet’s U.S. assets in 2023.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission in 2023 required that all signage at Fenway Park, TD Garden, and Gillette Stadium feature “21 and over” qualifiers, but sports betting logos remain ubiquitous in venues around the country.

Marc Edelman, a law professor at Baruch College Zicklin School of Business, doesn’t believe that there will be broad success in outlawing these types of advertisements in the United States because professional sports leagues are such powerful lobbyists. That’s not to suggest the idea is meritless.

“Much as we have said in the past that big Marlboro billboards in sports stadiums are inappropriate, even as cigarettes are a legal product, it is reasonable to suggest that large and prominent advertisements all over sports stadiums to engage in sports gambling are also inappropriate,” he told Gaming Today, “even if states are right to legalize and regulate sports gambling.”

Added Edelman: “For a sports league where just about every team is valued at upwards of $1 billion, how necessary is it really to have gambling-related ads in the stadium and gambling-related commercials?

“I have no problem with states legalizing and regulating sports betting. In many ways, I think it’s a good thing. But at the same time, one could support legal and licensed sports gambling and also believe that professional sports leagues should not be directly promoting these activities.”

About the Author
Brant James

Brant James

Lead Writer
Brant James is a lead writer who covers the sports betting industry and legislation at Gaming Today. An alum of the Tampa Bay Times, ESPN.com, espnW, SI.com, and USA Today, he's covered motorsports and the NHL as beats. He also once made a tail-hook landing on an aircraft carrier with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and rode to the top of Mt. Washington with Travis Pastrana. John Tortorella has yelled at him numerous times.

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