The NFL, once an ardent opponent of sports betting, has embraced it so much that the league appointed David Highhill as vice president, general manager of sports betting on June 27. The title, the first of its kind in the NFL, speaks volumes as to its importance to the league.
Highhill is no newcomer to the league—he’s spent the last 10 years in the NFL, and his most recent position was in the corporate strategy group where he oversaw the league’s sports betting initiatives. In his new role, he’ll lead efforts to protect the integrity of the game from gambling-related harm, advance the league’s brand and reputation, grow the value of the NFL’s data and intellectual property and drive fan engagement globally.
“The market has grown a lot in the last three or four seasons,” Highhill said. “What’s ahead is the exciting part of the opportunity.”
Last season saw the first sportsbook ads air during NFL telecasts. The league also partnered with sports betting operators, and those operators purchased official data from the league.
In 2021, the Washington Commanders franchise was granted a sports betting license in Maryland, but Highhill does not see the league or teams being directly involved in the sportsbook business.
“We’re going to focus on serving fans and the games rather than becoming a sportsbook,” Highhill told ESPN.
Highhill is also aware of the potential to do too much too soon when it comes to betting content, and the fact that some fans are not interested.
“We know there is a profile of fans that are most interested and a profile of fans that are less interested,” Highhill said. “So, serving fans where they are is very important and that goes right alongside with supporting our relationship with the National Council on Problem Gambling and ensuring that we take a leadership position on problem gambling.”