Pats get lottery deal, other teams talking

Updated: May 22, 2009, 8:47 AM ET
Associated Press

BOSTON -- Just one day after the NFL decided to allow its teams to make deals with lotteries, the New England Patriots became the first to announce a licensing agreement.

Other states said they were talking about sponsorships that could put NFL team logos on scratch-off tickets across the country.

The Patriots said Thursday they had a deal with the Massachusetts State Lottery on an instant ticket that is expected to be for sale by the start of the 2009 season.

"This is going to be a hugely successful collaboration," Patriots owner Robert Kraft said.

The Patriots aren't likely to be alone for long.

Robert Kraft talks about the Patriots 2009 season.

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Robert Kraft talks about the Patriots' 2009 season.

The Michigan Lottery is talking to the Detroit Lions, the Minnesota State Lottery is talking to the Vikings, and the Titans said they would consider a deal in Tennessee.

The San Diego Chargers and Cincinnati Bengals said they have no plans. But the New York Lottery is already talking to the Buffalo Bills -- as well as the New Jersey-based Giants and Jets.

Even the nonprofit, community-owned Green Bay Packers are interested.

"We think there is potential in this new area and we'll be taking a look at the opportunity," said Laura Sankey, Packers senior vice president of marketing and sales. "As we do with all our potential partners, we'll want to strive to build and enhance both our businesses."

After decades of a strict no-gambling policy, the NFL's owners voted Wednesday to allow teams to sign licensing deals with state-sponsored lotteries that could bring the league new revenue in a weak economy. The NFL remains strongly opposed to betting on the outcome of games, but commissioner Roger Goodell said lottery deals could generate money for "many different public purposes."

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones noted that other leagues have affiliated with lotteries without allowing gambling to jeopardize the integrity of the games. In Massachusetts, the state lottery has sold scratch-off tickets since 2006 with the logos of the Red Sox and Celtics, as well as the World Series and NBA championship trophies.

"The NFL has extensively researched and looked at how other leagues have done it and how they differentiate between the lottery and all those other areas," Jones said.

Though the amount teams would earn will differ depending on the deal -- and the allure of the teams -- it could be substantial for those trying to find new revenue at a time when fewer fans can afford $300 box seats, $37 baseball caps and $4 pretzels.

The Massachusetts State Lottery has sold $5, $10, and $20 Red Sox scratch-off tickets that generated a total of $632 million in three years. Massachusetts cities and towns got $83 million, the lottery said, and in a typical game about 2.1 percent -- about $13.2 million in this case -- goes to operating expenses, which would include the fee paid to a third party that obtained the rights from the Red Sox.

The Red Sox would not say how much they earned from the deal, calling it proprietary.

The Patriots and Massachusetts lottery had been talking "for a while" as they waited for the league to OK such deals. Other teams are just getting into the game.

"We think it's a good development for the lottery industry," New York Lottery spokeswoman Jennifer Givner said. "And I'm aware of the deal right now between the New England Patriots and the Massachusetts Lottery. So they're moving ahead, the first ones out of the gate."

New York has worked with the NBA's Knicks, the NHL's Rangers and Islanders, and baseball's Mets and Yankees.

"We do have a history of working with other professional teams here in New York state," Givner said.

Bills spokesman Andy Major called the team's discussions preliminary and said it was only prudent to look at business opportunities as they become available.

"We're following the lead of the NFL," he said. "When the NFL presents teams with additional opportunities, you have to take a hard look at that and see if it's a good fit for the organization."


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press