The NFL is placing a bet that it needs a new hire devoted to the gambling industry, but how much authority and responsibility the league is willing to give to the yet-to-be-determined executive remains uncertain.
The NFL is looking to hire a general manager of sports betting, a search that began in pre-pandemic 2020—and stalled—but has recently picked up again. The public job posting made headlines last month, but it’s unclear when the hiring process will conclude. Every major sports league currently has a senior executive overseeing sports betting initiatives, but the NFL is going deeper by pegging one specific person to identify related business opportunities.
“It’s no longer surprising when a major sports league is taking public substantial moves to increase its embrace of sports betting,” said Chris Grove, an analyst and partner at Eilers & Krejcik Gaming. “I think we’ve seen the vestiges of that (taboo) attitude be shed.”
According to a LinkedIn post, the NFL seeks a candidate to lead the league’s “comprehensive approach to legalized sports betting” and “drive key industry relationships.” This could mean identifying a strategist with longstanding ties in the gaming sector, or someone with a background in gambling regulation and compliance.
It’s also worth noting it’s a vice president role that will report to chief revenue officer Renie Anderson, and Grove wonders how much autonomy the new person will have.
“The NFL is limiting the perceived power and influence of the position as a hedge against the uncertainty of what the role will actually entail,” Grove said.
A league spokesman says the new hire will make senior management decisions “in consultation” with Anderson and they anticipate the position evolving as the sports betting industry changes.
There’s no previous template for the position in the NFL, which has an internal sports betting working group. In the past, the NFL has had executives, including former chief strategy and growth officer Chris Halpin, handle gambling-industry responsibilities but never someone dedicated to it day to day. The new executive will step in at a peculiar time, especially as newer betting partnerships continue to materialize ahead of the 2022 season.
“The NFL has consistently been working on this issue, so this is taking it to the next level,” said sports betting consultant Sara Sloane. “They already have a strong foundation and base.”
The NFL—which has a deal with sports data company Genius Sports and partnerships with several popular operators—is reportedly increasing annual revenue by hundreds of millions of dollars thanks to legalized sports betting. The league is on track to reach its revenue goal of $25 billion in annual revenue by 2027, and the new person will be tasked with finding ways to build on the next decade of financial growth while maintaining the integrity of the league. It’s common for VP-level NFL management to earn their authority over time, and this role reads like it will be the same.
Several people around the industry believe the hire’s success will hinge on the ability to work across other departments, including media and sponsorship.
The NFL isn’t hurting for cash, but would the league be willing to pay a multimillion-dollar annual salary for this non-EVP position?
“It’s really smart what the NFL is doing, but can they pull it off or not? I’m not sure,” one former NFL executive said. “I think they’re going to find in the recruiting pipeline that the better the person is, the more they’re going to be skeptical about the (gaming) platform the NFL wants to be.”