The new XFL looks to sports betting to enhance interest and viewership
Timing is often the path of much success in life and in business as well. That could be a key ingredient as the XFL is making its second attempt at building interest and getting people to pay attention.
There are two main factors that would seem to help the opportunity. Like any business plan, one of the main bullet points are learning from past mistakes. In this case, it's having major television networks work with you to build an audience to promote your league. The first go-around only had a mild interest from CBS Sports to keep them afloat. This chapter ESPN and its army of 24-hr. networks and hosts are on board to help insure the XFL gets every possible opportunity to prove its potential meddle.
But still, possibly the biggest factor is timing. In that the XFL has the blessing of ESPN, ABC and FOX to fully promote the welcome of legalized sports gambling to the United States. Ok, not in all the US just yet, however, enough to motivate many to their phones and tablets to wager. The rest to their legislators, pushing them to bring it within their state.
No Hiding the Line-ups or Lines
We've often joked about Al Michaels famous, creative quips referring to spreads and especially totals, with over-under references late in Sunday and Monday Night Football games. He's gotten some heat from networks' brass, but silently enjoyed the reputation being an innovator for such an overlooked opportunity.
Not this times sports fans, or should I say, sports bettors. Not only will ESPN/ABC not back away from lines references but endorse them by scrolling them in the bottom of the screen during games! Woah, would we ever live to think we would see this!! The XFL has even entered a partnership with wagering giant DraftKings to become "the official fantasy partner of the XFL".
"The XFL is an innovative, fan-first league and DraftKings shares a mutual commitment to delivering a top-notch gaming experience to sports fans across the board," said Ezra Kucharz, chief business officer at DraftKings, on the DraftKings website. "We are confident that through this collaborative partnership, our highly engaged customer base will enjoy betting on the XFL and playing in XFL Daily Fantasy Sports contests."
In turn that means fantasy wagering as an appetizer, but certainly all forms of sports wagering may be introduced through the XFL to new customers as the main course.
This was by no means an eleventh-hour decision. Remember that it has now been almost two years since PASPA (the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act) was reversed allowing the gateway for individual states to legislate sports wagering. This all went into the future thinking of XFL owner and chairman Vince McMahon when recreating the newest version. He will initially lose millions on his investment, but without debate, NEEDS wagering to turn a profit.
"This notion of embracing the spread," XFL president Jeffrey Pollack said, "means that our mission, our design and our business infrastructure are all geared to the sports betting future that's coming fast."
"We see a lot of pros to leaning into the sports betting world," he added. "It's what our fans want. We don't see cons, we see opportunity."
Rules Designed For Wagering
In styling this new league the XFL even prioritized wagering in putting together several new creative rules, keeping the excitement of betting in-mind.
The XFL's play clock is 25 seconds versus 40 seconds in the NFL, and the game clock stops only briefly, except for the final two minutes of each half. A goal here was to produce a similar number of plays per game as the NFL, but in less than three hours. NFL games during the last regular season averaged 126.8 offensive snaps and 45.6 points per game. The first four XFL games averaged 124 offensive plays and 38.5 points. A relative surprise thus far of low scoring.
Following a touchdown, a team has a choice of going for one point from the 2-yard line, two points from the 5-yard line or three points from the 10-yard line. "This enhances a team's ability to make a comeback," XFL senior vice president strategy and business development John Scheler said. "Your bet's in play longer because the team potentially has the ability to come back and cover the spread." Another executive statement indicating no one at the new football league is shying away from the priority of wagering in the business plan.
An overtime is decided by an alternating shoot-out with teams exchanging single plays from the 5-yard line. Each score is worth two points. This rule, like the college format, is a potential worry for all bettors including the game's over/under within their thinking.
Establishing odds for a brand-new sports venture has been a challenge for oddsmakers.
Most all preferred sportsbooks felt comfortable posting a wagering line on the game including lines for each half, like any NFL contest. Putting up numbers for Over-Unders were vastly different with few oddsmakers brave enough to test the waters with such dramatic new rules, players plus an untested sample to work with.
One of the very few brave soldiers was the Circa Sportsbook in downtown Las Vegas. Kudos to their sportsbook manager Chris Bennett, who's logic for posting the number "was just a guess".
It turned out to be a good one with a 40.5 Total posted for all four XFL games last weekend. After a wave of action, the numbers climbed into the 50’s at Circa. Three of the four games went UNDER the total, yielding a nice profit for this book in Week One.
That was not the story for any of the top online sportsbooks. Industry giants like Bovada, 5Dimes, BetOnline, WagerWeb and more fired high totals and moneylines in Week One. Totals and moneylines for all XFL games are on the board again in Week 2, but being offered at much lower limits than NFL games, while spreads are available at higher limits.
Bet Who Was Also Watching
The first Nielsen report returned a respectable 2.9 rating. Without any reasonable doubt aided by the close-knit relationship with the gaming industry. It will only improve in the coming weeks until March Madness.
Although he wouldn't admit it, there is also no doubt that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was watching and paying attention to the numbers as well. He could only dream and imagine what the staggering numbers his league could produce embracing a cozy relationship with the gaming industry and the broadcast networks.
*Will we live to see it?
No – 250
*wager depends on your legal age
Glenn Greene covers the games from a betting angle every week exclusively at OSGA.com. For weekly betting insights, including previews and picks from Glenn, click here.