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Legalized sports betting has had 'big influence' on increased NFL ratings, Giants co-owner says

5th December, 22:42

Legalized sports betting has had a significant role in improved NFL television ratings, New York Giants co-owner Jonathan Tisch told CNBC on Thursday.

"That is certainly a big influence," Tisch said on "Power Lunch." "Obviously, if you're betting on a certain game, you're going to watch to see what happens and you're going to watch until the bitter end because there are many games that are won on a field goal with three seconds left."

Tisch also said fantasy football continues to play a role in fans choosing to bypass buying a ticket and going to the stadium, instead opting to stay home or go to a bar to watch on TV.

Through Monday, TV viewership for NFL games is up more than 5% from last year, to 16.7 million people, while digital viewership has risen around 49% compared with 2018, according to CNBC's Julia Boorstin.

NFL ratings grew by about 5% on average last season, after two years of decline.

If sports betting is playing a role in improved ratings, it would certainly not be the only factor. They also are likely receiving a boost from competitive games on the field and the emergence of exciting young stars such as Baltimore Ravens' quarterback Lamar Jackson, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Off-field discussion around social justice protests and player safety also are no longer center stage.

Questions about the impact legalized sports betting would have on professional sports leagues have been commonplace since the Supreme Court struck down a federal law in May 2018 that effectively made it illegal in most states.

Since the ruling, the number of states that have legalized it has risen to 13, according to the American Gaming Association. Six more states and the District of Columbia are working to open legal markets soon.

Tisch said he believes the impact of sports betting will continue to grow, suggesting there will be a day when a sports fan could place a bet from inside the stadium.

"I think the NFL is getting ready for it," Tisch said in response to a question about whether the Giants were specifically preparing for it. The team plays its home games in New Jersey, which has legalized sports betting.

Due to the NFL's revenue-sharing structure among its 32 teams, decisions about how to distribute betting revenue would need to take place at a level beyond just one franchise, Tisch said.

But, he said, "I'm sure the NFL is in constant conversation about how all this is going to unfold."