Promo will be a first for a league still sensitive about betting scandals
The New England Patriots are developing the first licensed NFL instant ticket with the Massachusetts State Lottery just days after league owners voted to allow teams to partner with lotteries across the country. "This is going to be a hugely successful collaboration," Robert Kraft, chief executive of Kraft Group, which owns the Patriots, said yesterday. "We are looking forward to helping the lottery generate much needed revenue for the cities and towns of Massachusetts."
The promotion is a departure for the National Football League, which has been particularly conservative about any affiliation with betting or gambling, and previously banned team logos on state lottery tickets, according to sports marketing analysts. Professional baseball and basketball teams have partnered for several years with the lottery — the Red Sox were the first to have a Major League Baseball scratch ticket in 2006, and the Celtics have also had scratch ticket promotions.
Sports marketing analysts say some of the NFL's sensitivity over the lottery stems from past gambling scandals with football players and the fact that professional football is by far the most bet on sports in Las Vegas. About 25 percent of all Las Vegas sports bets are made on NFL teams, and college football accounts for another 20 percent, according to Kenny White, chief operating officer for Las Vegas Sports Consultants. Earlier this month, the NFL filed a brief in Delaware Supreme Court stating its opposition to the state's plans to allow sports betting.
At a press conference this week, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said there was a distinction between Delaware's sports gambling and the state lottery tickets.
"This would purely be scratch-off and chance games. They are not in any way connected to the outcome of our games. That is a critical feature for us," Goodell said. "We do think it is responsive to the pressures that states are feeling right now to help meet some of those budget shortfalls. It has been effective in other sports, and it is something that is a reasonable policy."
Christopher Cakebread, a Boston University professor who teaches sports marketing and advertising, said the NFL may have viewed the lottery tickets as a way to make up for revenue lost from declining sponsorships during this tough economy.
"It's another way for them to promote the teams and to get a cut for licensing the logos," Cakebread said. "But I'm kind of surprised with the Patriots because they have always had such a clean, clean record, and I would think they might be concerned about any kind of backlash that would come out of this."
Stacey James, a spokesman for the Patriots, said the team has no concerns about the lottery promotion and any affiliation with gambling. "It's not a casino where you can wager on outcomes of games. It's a scratch ticket that you're plying for an opportunity to win dollars and various prizes," James said
The Patriots ticket is expected to go on sale before the start of the 2009 NFL season. The team said it is too early to release specifics on the lottery game and would not provide details on how much revenue it is expected to generate for the Patriots.
The Massachusetts State Lottery also said it is premature to project how much money it would make for the state, but noted its "proven track record" of creating instant ticket products with major sports franchises. These products have generated over $740 million in sales and $101 million in local aid for the cities and towns of Massachusetts.
"This is an excellent opportunity for two successful brands to work together on behalf of the communities of Massachusetts," State Treasurer Tim Cahill, chairman of the Massachusetts State Lottery Commission, said in a statement on the Patriots promotion. "During this economic downturn, cities and towns will benefit from this partnership."
Last month the lottery launched a new $5 Boston Red Sox Instant ticket, which is expected to generate more than $151 million in sales. The new ticket follows the commission's three previous Red Sox games that have combined ticket sales of $632 million.
Last fall, the Boston Celtics released a $5 Limited Edition 2008 NBA Champions ticket, following the sold out Boston Celtics Green instant ticket that generated more than $70 million.