Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 ruling that the federal ban on sports betting was unconstitutional, the NFL began exploring commercial relationships in the gambling space.
NFL in-house lawyer Doug Mishkin, who previously worked as senior vice president at Metric Gaming, said his experience positioned him well to play a leading legal role in supporting the league’s subsequent transactions in that domain.
“I was hopeful that the expertise I had gained while working in Las Vegas at Metric Gaming would be an important asset if, and when, things opened up” in the sports betting space, said Mishkin, who joined the NFL in 2016. “It certainly happened faster than I expected.”
Mishkin recently spoke with Legal Dive after the law firm Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner announced he had joined the firm as a partner in its global Sports & Entertainment Group.
Mishkin said it was fulfilling to be part of a paradigm shift at the NFL, which as a league had not embraced commercial activities in the sports betting space prior to the overturning of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA).
As senior counsel, Mishkin played roles in handling the NFL’s first-ever casino sponsorship, daily fantasy sports sponsorship, official sports betting data and live video distribution deals, among other agreements.
For example, it was in early 2019 when the NFL announced that Caesars Entertainment was selected as its first official casino sponsor of the league.
Because gaming operates in a tightly regulated space, Mishkin said, there were many more issues for the league to consider when partnering with sports gambling entities compared to its more traditional sponsors. What’s more, the league itself has many policies governing commercial activities in the space.
Along those lines, Mishkin said, it was important for the NFL to ensure its gambling sponsors' promotional efforts were responsible in nature and never targeted youth.
In addition to the deals he worked on, like the Caesars sponsorship, Mishkin helped shape the NFL’s post-PASPA gambling policies, which informed the provisions the league needed to include in its gambling-related contracts.
Speaking generally, he said, sports leagues might consider policies that help meet fans interested in betting where they are, rather than “foisting” sports betting-related content and activities on those who might find it objectionable.
“You want to think first and foremost about your fans and respect those fans who may not be interested in seeing sports betting as part of their experience, while also providing experiences and opportunities for those fans who are interested in it,” Mishkin said.
Mishkin’s time at the NFL further included supporting its government affairs team in the sports betting advocacy and legislative drafting initiatives it undertook at the state level.
Additionally, he advised and counseled NFL teams on their partnerships in emerging areas, including sports betting market access deals.
Joining Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner
Mishkin said he has watched closely as many states across the country have legalized sports betting in recent years, and it got him thinking about a potential future beyond working in-house for the NFL.
“With that growth, and with my experience, it just seemed like I was in a position to provide value to a number of other companies in the space, whether it's other leagues, sports teams or operators,” he said.
So when Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner presented him with the opportunity to join the firm to do just that, he said it was compelling and he signed on to become a New York-based partner.
The firm’s existing professional sports team clients include 31 in the NHL as well as teams in the MLB, NBA, NFL and MLS. Additionally, the firm represents more than 20 international football clubs.
Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner leaders said they were thrilled to have Mishkin join the firm.
“His unique and broad experience with the NFL and in advising all of its teams, along with his specialized legal experience in gaming, sports betting and other emerging categories, will provide tremendous value to our clients across the sports and entertainment industry,” said Ryan Davis, co-chair of the firm’s Sports & Entertainment Group.