In an interesting turn of events for the recently revived XFL, Vince McMahon’s experimental NFL alternative, the league has openly embraced sports betting and even consulted with Las Vegas sportsbook operators on creating rules and odds for the game. The XFL has also announced three official authorized gaming operators so far, which are DraftKings, FanDuel, and Fox Bet.
The original XFL, which launched in 2001 and lasted for only one season, had a decidedly “pro wrestling” feel. Game rules were less strict than NFL to promote more intense games, as well as usage of WWE personalities for colour commentary, brash player interviews, and handfuls of other elements borrowed from pro wrestling. This led to the original XFL being treated as a bit of a joke in the mainstream media, and even Vince McMahon is quoted as saying the original XFL was a “colossal failure” after $35 million USD in losses.
After being shelved for nearly 20 years, Vince McMahon revived the XFL with a decidedly more serious focus on being a legitimate competitor to the NFL. Gone are the WWE-style “sports entertainment” gimmicks, but McMahon has embraced a much more lucrative “gimmick” for the XFL – a heightened emphasis on sports odds betting right out of the gate.
For decades, the NFL tried to limit the spread of sports betting, with the company being a vocal critic of sports betting and taking active measures to prevent and discourage it. For example, the NFL blocked Las Vegas tourism commercials during the 2003 Super Bowl, though the NFL is quickly changing their tune as sports betting has been legalized in 13 out of 50 U.S. states.
In fact, for being pretty much the only major American sports league with an anti-betting stance (the NHL, NBA, and MLB have all had official betting partners for years), the NFL seems to be practically racing towards accepting sports betting. Just this past February 6th, Brad Allen of Legal Sports Report reported that the NFL is quietly looking for its first vice president of sports betting.
It’s entirely unknown whether this decision was related in any way to the revival of the XFL, but it would make sense if it played even a small part in the wheels turning at the NFL. As sports betting is becoming legalized and embraced across the U.S., it’s possible that the NFL felt like Vince McMahon is targeting an immense growing sector of the sports industry, and the 2020 reiteration of the XFL could actually become a legitimate competitor to the NFL, compared to the XFL’s 2001 version.
This is all theory, but if any of it is true, then the XFL has already made a massive impact on not just online sports betting, but the sports industry as a whole. Consider it from this perspective – Vince McMahon has basically forced the NFL’s hand to actively embrace sports betting, and quickly.
The XFL’s rules are very friendly to sports betting
As mentioned, the XFL worked alongside (or at least consulted) Las Vegas bookmakers while developing the XFL’s game rules. Thus, some of the rules are purposely designed around keeping the spread in player longer, and providing more opportunities for teams to make a comeback during gameplay and cover the spread.
For starters, the XFL’s play clock is 25 seconds, rather than 40 seconds as in the NFL. The clock stops are a bit briefer, except during “comeback periods”, which are the final two minutes of each half. The XFL aims to have a similar number of plays per game as the NFL, but in a condensed timeslot (under thee hours per game).
This means that the XFL’s first four games averaged around 124 offensive plays and 38.5 points, compared to the NFL’s 2019 regular season average of 126.8 offensive snaps and 45.6 points per game.
Teams can also choose a line based on points after a touchdown, at one point from the 2-yard line, two points from the 5-yard line, and three points from the 10-yard line. According to XFL senior vice president John Scheler, this “enhanced a team’s ability to make a comeback”, as well as keep bets in play longer. It could also lead to huge blowout scores, but that’s neither here nor there for the time being.