It feels like it was just yesterday when the NFL shut down a fantasy football convention in Dallas because it deemed it too similar to gambling. Fast forward a few short years and the league has fully embraced gambling and the billions in potential revenue it's set to infuse into the league, to the point where the New Orleans Saints have now been allowed to enter a partnership that will eventually see Mercedes-Benz Superdome -- an arena that currently shares a sponsor with the hated Atlanta Falcons -- change its name to one of the most recognizable gambling venues in all the world: Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.
Caesars, already an official casino partner with the NFL, received approval on Thursday to move forward with labeling the Saints stadium as "Caesars Superdome." The Louisiana state legislature's Joint Budget Committee approved a 20-year contract on the new stadium name.
"This approval was a procedural step in securing the naming rights," the team said in an official statement, via Mike Triplett of ESPN. "... And now we move to finalize our partnership agreement. Once that is official, we will have a formal announcement."
On Monday, the team formally announced the change.
"All of us at Caesars are proud to be part of New Orleans' vibrant culture. We understand that the Caesars Superdome is more than an iconic venue, it's the symbol of a resilient and innovative community," said CEO of Caesars Entertainment, Tom Reeg. "We've had a strong relationship with the New Orleans Saints for nearly two decades and we are thrilled with the opportunity to strengthen it and celebrate our commitment to the city, the state, and the entire Gulf Coast region."
Saints owner Gayle Benson couldn't agree more.
"This partnership sends a strong message about the positive future for the New Orleans Saints, Caesars Entertainment, and the entire state of Louisiana," said Benson. "That message states that companies with the global reach of Caesars Entertainment is investing in our city, state and region. Caesars has long been one of the world's most respected entertainment companies. Caesars is in the midst of creating a first-class multi-million dollar entertainment facility in downtown New Orleans, this significant investment also demonstrates the strength of their commitment to our state and region.
"We are proud to partner with a company that is dedicated to the economic growth of our city, state and region."
Known as Mercedes-Benz Superdome for the past decade, the contract with the German auto manufacturer expired this week -- opening the door for months of negotiations with Caesars to finally bear fruit.
And with the Saints owning naming rights, they'll be the beneficiary of the funds directly provided by Caesars from the sponsorship, with the team making it clear they'll use the monies to begin needed improvements on the Superdome. It's quite the turnaround for a league that once dropped the hammer on any and all within it who attempted to brush elbows with the world of gambling.
But, in 2021 and beyond, the NFL is pushing all of its chips to the center of the table.