The Commanders’ In-Stadium Sports Book Could Be Disastrous for the NFL

And it's part of a growing industry trend

Washington Commanders helmet
The lines between acceptable and unacceptable sports gambling experiences are blurring
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If you’re watching an NFL game live and in the stadium, there are plenty of things you can do while you’re there. Cheering on your team — or booing the opposition — are obvious choices; you can also enjoy food or drink, or perhaps peruse the wares in the team’s store. If you happen to be watching the Washington Commanders play at home, you can also stop by FedEx Field’s sports book, the first facility of its kind in the league, and gamble to your heart’s content.

The sports book in question is at the center of a recent New York Times article, by Jenny Vrentas, exploring its unique status in the league — for now, anyway. Fanatics operates the space, and Vrentas notes that there’s at least one significant design choice that could keep people from lingering there: you can’t see the field directly from inside of it.

Still, it begs the question of if and when a similar facility will crop up at another stadium. Given the increased prominence of gambling ads during NFL games, it seems likely that the FedFex Field facility will have some company soon — although the rise of gambling apps also means that someone can relatively easily bet on a game from their seat without actually needing to walk anywhere. It’s enough to prompt the question: is this all good for the sport?

Given that the NFL’s occasionally-vague policies on sports betting — and the confusion some players have faced when trying to follow them — it’s not hard to feel skeptical. And it’s also telling that, across the Atlantic, another sport that embraced gambling-related revenue is now looking to scale things back somewhat.

Sports Gambling Ads Have Officially Taken Over NFL Broadcasts
Have sports themselves become ancillary to our newfound ability to legally bet on them? Watch any pro sports broadcast and the answer is clear.

That would be the Premier League, which earlier this year agreed to phase out gambling companies’ jersey sponsorships by the time of the 2026-27 season. The effect of gambling on the sport is all too tangible right now. To cite one example, Brentford’s star striker Ivan Toney is in the midst of a suspension that will cause him to miss half of the current season. Brentford’s jersey sponsor is — wait for it — a gambling company, and if that sets off your cognitive dissonance alarm, you’re not alone.

It’s worth noting that the Premier League doesn’t seem to be ending all involvement of gambling with the league, just opting for a more moderate approach. It’s enough to raise the question of whether the NFL would do well to to follow suit before the league winds up with its own equivalent of the Toney situation to deal with.

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