Australia’s premier rugby league competition is seeking to cash in on the expanding US sports betting market, according to reports. Executives for Australia’s National Rugby League (NRL) are reportedly traveling to Las Vegas to negotiate the city hosting a pair of round one games, tapping into the US booming wagering industry.
According to The Guardian, the NRL is on the cusp of cementing a long-term strategy to cash in on what it calls “an absolute revolution” taking place in online sports betting in the US, potentially worth hundreds of millions of dollars in broadcast fees, sponsorship and gambling revenue. League executives will visit the gambling mecca next month to continue negotiations and meeting with multiple stakeholders before any formal announcement is made.
NRL Commission Chair Peter Peter V’landys has been upfront about a desire to access the growing US market, now worth about $20 billion a year, since he took over the job in 2019. This overseas expansion is supported by many of Australia’s biggest sports gambling firms, although they would not benefit directly as international bets cannot be placed with Australian bookmakers.
“I can’t say exactly how they’ll sign the deal, but they’ll get a share of the sports betting and have exclusivity options with broadcasters and the gambling companies,” Colin Smith of advisory firm Global Media and Sports told The Guardian. “They could also get exclusive sponsorships as well.”
Aerial view of Las Vegas Strip
“This is really long-term thinking,” he added. “Americans might be interested in following the NRL and having more games over there. The closest thing to the NFL would be the NRL.” Additionally, US gambling companies could potentially be interested in spending big money on sponsorships and associating themselves with Australian leagues, especially as they are finding it hard to get a gambling license in “the Land Down Under.”
South Sydney, Manly and Melbourne were quick to show interest in playing the historic NRL season opener at Allegiant Stadium, home of next year’s Super Bowl, reports Sky News. However, the league’s efforts to tap into the US sports betting market could prove divisive as Australian sport faces pressure to reevaluate its relationship with the gambling industry.
A poll by Resolve Strategic last November found that 62% of respondents would choose to ban gambling businesses from sports sponsorships. Additionally, Australian Football League (AFL) fans have pushed for a ban on gambling advertising at stadiums and on TV.