XFL ‘far ahead’ on single-game betting, CFL likely to move up season regardless of merger: Farhan Lalji

Some in the CFL believe that the legalization of single-game betting in Canada could see a revenue boost of as much as $20 million annually, but they may not be the football league with the most-advanced knowledge on how to make that happen.

As TSN’s Farhan Lalji explained to Derek Taylor on the SportsCage in Regina, the league has recently discovered just how much it has fallen behind their American counterparts on this issue.

“I’ll tell you, that was one of the big eye openers for CFL people during these meetings with the XFL is just how far ahead the XFL people were in terms of understanding the infrastructure,” Lalji noted.

“That’s not to say that the XFL was bringing in a lot of money off of single-game betting and one of the reasons for that is because American bettors had no idea what they were betting on because it was all completely new entities. Whereas the CFL could potentially bring some existing franchises that people can already understand and that helps the front end of the betting process.”

While betting revenue may not have been enough for the XFL to survive the pandemic, their knowledge of the gambling industry far exceeds the CFL’s. Gambling revenue isn’t generated by individual bets, that money is pocketed by the gaming service. The league’s windfall must come from agreements with those entities and other services.

“That puts some work on the league and the teams to find out what those revenue streams are and to take advantage of them,” Lalji explained. “There’s things like creating sponsorship arrangements with different sports books and betting apps and things of that nature to try to monetize your data.”

Critics have noted that multi-game betting has generated little monetary gain for the CFL, but most believe single-game betting will be a different animal, with viewers far more likely to wager on their local team.

The CFL should also see an increase in its traditional revenue streams as a side benefit of legalized gambling. It stands to reason that if people are betting on games, they are more likely to buy tickets, watch them on TV, and consume pre and post-game analysis. One of the reasons the NFL was able to negotiate a new $113 billion TV deal was the fan interest generated by fantasy sports and gambling.

Bill C-218 has passed its third reading in the House of Commons and has moved onto the Senate, where it can be passed into law. It was introduced by Saskatoon-Grasswood member of parliament Kevin Waugh in 2020 to end an outdated restriction on single-event sports betting, an industry worth $14 billion in Canada.

Ambrosie wrote a letter of support for Bill C-218 in March 2021, calling it a “vital economic tool” for the CFL. The $20 million projection could single-handedly allow the league to be profitable without any improvements to other areas of its business model, but it won’t happen overnight.

Even if Bill C-218 passes the Senate quickly, provincial legislation lags behind in most provinces, with Ontario being a notable exception. The CFL is unlikely to cash in until 2022, giving them more time to gain knowledge of the market and explore opportunities to maximize revenue.

That could include a partnership with the XFL, but even if talks between the two leagues deteriorate, major changes are coming.

“Even without the XFL, the CFL season is going to move up maybe three weeks, at least. Just to create that additional exclusivity on the football gambling side, because football gambling blows the other sports out of the water,” Lalji reported.

That time of year has typically been avoided due to the fear of conflict with the NHL, but Lalji believes that is no longer an issue.

“What are the bigger conflicts for the CFL, is it the NHL playoffs or is it the National Football League? I’m telling you, I think it’s the National Football League, because by the time you get to the conference finals in the NHL, the Canadian teams are generally an afterthought,” he emphasized.

“If you think that Vegas versus Colorado, as compelling as those teams are, is really going to put a dent in CFL ratings… The NFL has got a much greater chance.”

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