NFL licensing its brands to an online mobile slots game
NFL licensing its brands to an online mobile slots game
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The NFL is licensing its brands to an online mobile slot game developed by Aristocrat Gaming, which last year struck a similar pact with the league but for physical slot machines.

The NFL is the first U.S. sports league to license its intellectual property to a physical casino game, and now a mobile one.

The NFL’s move to insert its logos into slot games would have not so long ago been completely unthinkable. But the 2018 Supreme Court ruling allowing legalized sports gambling nationwide unleashed sports leagues and teams into the betting world.

What stands out about the mobile slot game, and the earlier deal with Aristocrat, is slots is a casino game, not sports betting. Heretofore NFL gambling deals were largely with sportsbooks, though some teams have had sponsorships with Native American casinos.

There are different types of mobile slot games. Some allow gambling regularly as the slot spins. Envision the old lady, a cigarette dangling from her mouth, with a cup full of change and pulling the lever in a casino or jabbing at the touch screen. This is not the type of game the NFL is licensing its IP to, at least not in the first iteration.

The plan is for the game to require a small fee to buy digital coins used to win prizes, a source familiar with the agreement between the NFL and Aristocrat wrote in a text. When the digital coins are depleted, the user buys more coins.

“There’s a big business if you can get people to buy the virtual currency to play the games,” said Dustin Gouker, a gambling consultant, who said these types of games are known as social casinos. “Online casinos are a very big business. But in the United States, it’s limited, far more limited than sports betting because it’s only in just over a handful of states. The big ones are Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and West Virginia. So it’s a very big business in those states, especially, it usually outpaces sports betting.”

Responsible gaming groups and some state regulators have long opposed online casino games because of the ease of playing them–and losing money–on phones. Online slot games move fast, usually quicker than the physical machine, and a user can lose a lot quickly. Such a debate is unfolding in Maryland, for example.

“I imagine that the plan is to get into real money online casinos in the United States, if not immediately, and then down the road,” Gouker said of the NFL.

The NFL deferred comment to Aristocrat.

“We are currently in a phase of market testing which all of our games go through,” wrote Ben Judah, a spokesman for the game developer Product Madness, which is a unit of Pixel United, a division of Aristocrat.

Licensing names and likenesses to slot machines is not uncommon outside of sports. Gouker points to TV shows like Wheel of Fortune and Seinfeld. But other than the NFL, Gouker is unaware of any other sports league to do so.