Gambling and the NFL: Legalization in Colorado allowed Broncos to sign three sponsorship deals

The Broncos’ active on-field strategy this past offseason: Acquire players who can help rookie quarterback Drew Lock, from free agent right guard Graham Glasgow and tight end Nick Vannett to rookie receivers Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler.

The Broncos’ off-field strategy was similarly busy.

Taking advantage of sports gambling becoming legalized in the state of Colorado on May 1, the Broncos reached sponsorship deals with FanDuel (June 15), Betfred (June 16) and BetMGM (July 9). The Broncos had three deals in the fold before another NFL team had one.

Sports gambling is legal in 18 states, including eight states with NFL teams: Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

Even during the coronavirus pandemic, Colorado citizens are taking advantage of the new offerings.

In May, the state’s handle was $25.5 million, followed by $38.1 million in June — and that was before MLB and the NHL and NBA returned to play.

“We’ve always prided ourselves in being innovators and thought leaders and we’re excited to be in the front of the line stepping into this new space,” Broncos chief commercial officer Mac Freeman said.

About each of the Broncos’ new partners …

  • FanDuel: The first of the three sponsors who signed a deal, FanDuel’s app is operational and the company will have signage inside and outside the stadium.
  • Betfred: The company based in the United Kingdom recently entered the American marketplace and has opened a physical location at the Saratoga Casino in Black Hawk. During Broncos games, Betfred will have a hospitality tent outside Empower Field at Mile High.
  • BetMGM: A key point of the BetMGM-Broncos deal is the NFL’s first in-stadium betting lounge, which was constructed outside Sections 111-112. BetMGM will also offer the “First Possession Payoff Game,” and have hospitality offers in conjunction with MGM Resorts.

“We benefited from timing and Colorado was an early-mover as a state,” Freeman said. “We were on top of the topic and engaging with a lot of folks that were in the space. When Colorado went live (on May 1), we were in position to have an idea of what we wanted to do and what we were looking for.”

A bettors’ mobile device uses geolocation technology to verify the person is within Colorado before permitting a wager.

The wheels for the NFL’s entrance to this arena began turning in 2018, when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal ban on state authorization of sports gambling.

“I think there’s a general acceptance that (gambling) is part of the everyday entertainment value that you get in pro sports,” Broncos president/CEO Joe Ellis said. “We have good procedures in place as a league to ensure the fans that the games are played properly and without any skullduggery.

“It’s an opportunity to (reach) a lot of fans in a different way that we haven’t had in the past.”