If you’ve been to MetLife Stadium in the last week, it’s possible you might have seen something like this inside and outside the stadium:
NFL won’t allow Jets gambling sponsors to mention sports betting, but the presence is significant. 888 now has ads on six pylons outside stadium and is the scoreboard sponsor every time the team is in the Red Zone. pic.twitter.com/ediJhmSN3W
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) November 6, 2018
The reason? The New York Jets signed a sponsorship deal with 888 Holdings. The announcement from 888 only confirmed what most industry observers already knew. Indeed, today’s announcement seemed only a formality.
For its part, 888 will include Jets branding in its New Jersey marketing. Some of that marketing will include radio spots during ESPN broadcasts of Jets games. Additionally, 888 will offer Jets tickets and luxury seats as gifts, rewards, and perks for its valued customers.
MetLife, NY Jets and an 888 deal
Even though the deal only finalized today, the Jets are supposedly dealing with complaints already. There are two main sources of disagreement about the way the team has handled the arrangement.
For one thing, 888 signage has been emblazoned upon MetLife the past two weeks, well in advance of the confirmation of the deal. The advertising’s presence was especially galling for some due to the fact that the Jets played away games in Weeks 8 and 9.
On the other hand, complaints about the timing of the stadium’s adornment pale in comparison to the concern over the ads’ subject matter. The language of the 888 advertising skirts dangerously close to the NFL’s prohibition on teams engaging in direct promotion of NJ sports betting.
Technically, the Jets may be in compliance. The signage does not mention wagering on sports, and truthfully, 888 offers both online casino gambling and online poker. 888 Casino and 888 Poker have been part of NJ online gambling for years.
There is no question that the signs exhort observers to place wagers. The fact that the signs appear outside a sports arena makes it less of an intuitive leap to sports betting.
The other damning aspect of the advertising is the color of the signs themselves. 888 distinctly colors its different products to help customers identify them easier.
Its online casino features a green motif. Its poker room is dressed in blue.
The only part of the 888 website to feature orange is its sportsbook. So, it remains to be seen if this subtle nod is acceptable or not for the NFL.
888 deal not the first for the Jets or the NFL
Regardless of how kosher it is, the Jets’ deal with 888 is not the first for either the team or the league. In fact, the Jets announced a far more in-depth deal with MGM Resorts International last week.
That deal names MGM as the “official gaming partner” of the team in green and white. As such, MGM’s influence will extend beyond the signage.
Notably, an MGM product will now appear in the Jets official app. Fans can play I Called It for free and compete for cash and prizes. Once again, this aspect of the deal will come dangerously close to the NFL’s prohibitions on team sanctions of sports betting.
These kinds of questions are a new reality for the NFL. As it stands, the Jets are not the only team with gaming company sponsorships.
In fact, the Dallas Cowboys were the first team to make such a deal. The North Texas team partnered with nearby Oklahoma casino Winstar World Casino and Resort in September.
Since then, the Baltimore Ravens have also found a nearby sponsor. The Maryland team will feature advertising from the Horseshoe Casino Baltimore.
Of course, the Horseshoe is owned by Caesars Entertainment. Caesars also struck a deal recently with the soon-to-exist Las Vegas Raiders on its stadium construction.
So, even if the Jets are pushing the envelope with the 888 deal, they are not alone in the neighborhood. As always, the world of sports betting and gambling moves quickly.