NRL considering plan to cash in on legalised sports gambling in the US

The NRL has revealed its intention to cash in on the explosion in legalised sports betting in the United States, which experts predict could result in an increase of more than 50 per cent of the code’s current wagering income within the next five years.

Domestic sports wagering has become an increasingly lucrative revenue raiser for the game, particularly during the lockdown period. It brought in $16 million in 2017, but that figure has grown to $40 million during the past league financial year.

However, the NRL believes there is even more upside if it can tap into the market in the United States. Sports betting has long been illegal anywhere but in the state of Nevada, but now other US states are legalising it to turn billions of dollars in black-market bets into taxable income.

Australian Rugby League Commission director Gary Weiss has been tasked with developing wagering products for the American market with a view to enticing overseas punters to gamble on the NRL. The Commission is likely to consult Melbourne Storm chairman and co-owner Matt Tripp, the former Sportsbet boss and BetEasy founder. The online gambling pioneer predicts a huge windfall could come the NRL’s way from the explosion in American sports betting.

“Most definitely, if they handle it right they could tap into a very large and growing market that would see them generate incremental revenues from wagering that they didn’t expect to get at this time two or three years ago,” Tripp told the Herald.

“Given everyone sees the US as a wagering gold rush, there is certainly an opportunity for the NRL to leverage their assets, package them up and distribute them to US wagering operators.

Gambling spending has surged during pandemic lockdowns, with the NRL looking to cash in on newly legal US betting markets.

“They are all jostling to gain market share over the next few years, with huge marketing budgets. Some of them literally have $1 billion allocated for marketing alone over the course of the next few years.

“There is certainly going to be a play there to tap into that. I just hope they execute it well, because it’s in the best interests of the game.”

Pressed on what the upside could be for the NRL, Tripp said: “They generate a reasonable number out of Australia at the moment.

“It wouldn’t be ridiculous to suggest that, whatever they are generating from wagering now, they could add 50-60 per cent onto that over the course of the next five years.”

“We believe it could be one of the big revenue earners for the game.”

ARLC chairman Peter V’landys, who understands the wagering landscape via his role as the chief executive of Racing NSW, said the US wagering market was a very real opportunity for rugby league.

“I raised this when I first became chair, that we were going to look at the US market of sport,” V’landys said. “We can see extraordinary potential in it. Sports betting has never been legalised in the US.

“There was a $500 billion-plus illegal market. Well, each state is now starting to legalise sports betting and all the wagering operators are frantic, casinos are buying wagering companies because it’s going to be the big play in America.

“We want to get in there and there are various ways of doing it.”

V’landy updated the 16 clubs of the plan to tap into the US sports betting market during a conference call with their chairs and chief executives last week.

“We believe it could be one of the big revenue earners for the game,” V’landys said. “That’s what we’re exploring. I don’t want to say much more than that.”

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