After having accepted sponsorships from state lotteries and Native American casinos for years, the league in 2000 began promoting fantasy football games, which aren’t strictly gambling, but often involve informal wagers. About five years ago, Robert K. Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots and Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, invested in daily fantasy game start-ups. Since 2007, the N.F.L. has played games in London, where fans use their mobile phones to bet on the action during the game.
At the same time, the N.F.L. joined other leagues in opposing states that were trying to overturn the law banning sports wagering, arguing that abolishing the law threatened the integrity of the game. And when the Supreme Court sided with the states, the N.F.L. called on Congress to create a uniform regulatory framework for sports betting.
Then the league got to work trying to make money in the hodgepodge of states adopting gambling. Currently, 22 states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation allowing consumers to bet on sports.
“The Supreme Court ruling turned the spigot on,” said Daniel Wallach, a founder and director of the University of New Hampshire School of Law’s Sports Wagering and Integrity Program. “All sports gambling derives from the product the leagues put on, and there’s an upside they don’t want to leave on the table. That would be bad business.”