ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — With its first season beginning less than a week after the Super Bowl, the new XFL is taking on sports betting in a huge way.
The Newly Resurrected XFL
The XFL is owned by Vince McMahon’s Alpha Entertainment. The league owns eight teams, and unlike the NFL, the teams are not franchises. The games are played in the winter and spring, to fill the football void once the Super Bowl has played.
The league is divided into two divisions, East and West. New York, Washington, Tampa Bay, and St. Louis are in the Eastern division. Dallas, Seattle, Houston, and Los Angeles are in the Western division. The teams are the Dallas Renegades, DC Defenders, Houston Roughnecks, Los Angeles Wildcats, New York Guardians, St. Louis BattleHawks, Seattle Dragons and the Tampa Bay Vipers.
The new league, owned by wrestling showman Vince McMahon, will deliberately aim to draw in fans who bet on college and professional football. The XFL will take up the slack for fans who would otherwise have nothing to wager on for a few months. The first game will be played on February 8, less than a week after Super Bowl LIV. In fact, the XFL is making sports betting a crucial part of its operations.
The XFL has invited sportsbook operators and gambling companies to meetings to find out what they’d like to see in a football league. The ideas ranged from putting point spreads on TV as well as giving teams the option of trying different point numbers after each score.
“We’re putting up the spread from the get-go,” remarked Jeffrey Pollack, the XFL league president, and chief operating officer. “This is one of our core business strategies. We know that for a lot of fans, wagering on the games is as vital to experiencing the game as the jerseys, helmet, and ball. That’s why we’re gearing up with the sportsbooks. Our infrastructure and mission are aligned with the sports betting future that is already here. This is an incredible opportunity.”
Big Changes in the Way Pro-Football Bets on the Game
In at least nine states, gambling regulators have already approved betting on XFL games; these states include Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Iowa, New Hampshire, Indiana, Rhode Island, and West Virginia.
Another big change, both ESPN and ABC Sports will continuously update the point spread as well as the under/over on total points scored in the on-screen graphics. Announcers will also talk about how a specific play will affect the point spread or the over/under; that is something you will never see on an NFL broadcast.
“Will we mention mid-game, say, that if Houston is down by 2 points and they kick a field goal, will that affect the point spread? I think we will,” said Lee Fitting, senior vice president of ESPN’s production. “The thing is, you need to take betting and point spreads into account while, at the same time, you don’t turn off fans who don’t gamble and don’t understand the terminology. It’s walking a fine line.”
The network won’t update the odds or betting totals as the game progresses, but ESPN may consider doing just that later in the season, Fitting added.
The XFL brought the Los Angeles Wildcats, to Las Vegas for a mini-camp this last December so that the sportsbooks could acquaint themselves with the team and the league, which differ in several ways from the NFL. For example, XFL rules include the choice to seek 1, 2 or 3 points from the 2-, 5- or 10-yard line after scoring a touchdown. The XFL also allows teams to throw two forward passes on the same play assuming they both occur behind the line of scrimmage.
Scott Butera, a former commissioner of the Arena Football League, and current president of interactive gaming for MGM Resorts International, said his company will offer betting on XFL games in New Jersey, Nevada, and West Virginia. That decision followed meetings with league commissioner and CEO Oliver Luck.
“We know the XFL and Vince McMahon well and acknowledge that he’s a leader in sports entertainment,” Butera commented. “The XFL is ready to incorporate sports betting into their rules. That could make it a high-scoring league, with some props.”
Butera indicated that MGM, as well as other sports betting companies, will familiarize themselves with the league’s teams, coaches and players as the season progresses. He added that he expects the volume of wagering to exceed that of the now-defunct Alliance of American Football, which folded before completing its first season.
Like other professional sports leagues, the XFL is making arrangements with third parties to monetize sports betting as well as guarantee the integrity of its games. The XFL has already announced a partnership with Genius Sports for betting integrity monitoring and Champion Sports Data to compile and distribute its official league data. On February 5, the league unveiled a deal with DraftKings, which will serve as the league’s daily fantasy sports partner as well as the authorized gambling operator.
The league also plans to get fans involved in betting on its games even in states where sports betting is not yet legal, by providing free app contests in all 50 states.
The eight-team XFL league will play its championship game in April. It has teams in Houston, Dallas, Los Angeles, Seattle, St. Louis, New York, Tampa Bay, and Washington, so pick your winner, and get ready to play!