When the Alliance of American Football announced that it would be offering a spring NFL alternative starting in 2019, it boasted a number of big names from the worlds of broadcasting and football that seemed to give the league legitimacy. Now, the upstart league has unveiled another part of its survival strategy: a serious focus on gambling.

Alliance of American Football
The Alliance of American Football features a number of notable names among its executives and coaches, including Michael Vick (right), the offensive coordinator for the league’s Atlanta team. (Image: Alliance of American Football)

On Monday, the Alliance of American Football announced a three-year partnership with MGM Resorts International that will include a mobile app that allows gamblers to place bets on the same screen where they watch the league’s games.

In-App Betting Could Make AAF Attractive to Gamblers

The deal makes MGM the exclusive gaming partner of the AAF, and could give the league a leg up on its competition by attracting bettors in states where sports wagering is legal during a period of the year where there’s normally no football to gamble on.

“Our focus has always been to bring together best-in-class partners to build a spring football league that will change the landscape of professional sports,” AAF CEO and co-founder Charlie Ebersol said in a statement. “Together we can revolutionize the sports wagering experience for fans in a way that’s never been done before.”

That strategy includes having players wear sensors that will collect as much data as possible, allowing for a wide range of in-game betting options.

For instance, viewers might immediately get to see the speed at which a quarterback is throwing the ball, and those interested in betting could wager on the velocity of his next throw. Beyond that, the data might be used to help set the odds of that quarterback throwing an interception, or on a broader level, even the odds for the game overall.

“We’ll collect the data and then be able to have the algorithm sort out what is relevant,” Ebersol told ESPN.

MGM has jumped out as the early leader when it comes to gaming firms partnering with professional sports leagues. The company has also signed a deal to make itself the official gaming partner of the NBA.

However, the partnership with the AAF could have even larger implications in the long run. If the technology being employed in the league becomes popular among bettors, it could spread to other sports, something MGM president of interactive gaming Scott Butera says was taken into consideration when the deal was made.

“That’s why we didn’t just sponsor it, we invested in it,” Butera told ESPN.

AAF, XFL Competing for Spring Football Market

The Alliance of American Football is an eight-team league with teams in cities such as Atlanta, Phoenix, and San Diego. The league has already signed 332 players to their team rosters, with players typically being assigned to cities near where they played college football. The first game is scheduled to be played on Feb. 9.

The AAF was one of two new spring football leagues to be founded this year. In February, WWE founder Vince McMahon announced that he would be relaunching the XFL, albeit in a more traditional football format than the original version of the league that viewers rejected in 2001.

The AAF may have the advantage in a potential spring football war. Not only is it slated to start earlier – the XFL is looking to launch in 2020 – but its partnerships and an experienced team of executives have given the AAF added legitimacy without the baggage that comes with the XFL’s history.

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