ErisX Halts Plan to List NFL Futures Contracts

Posted on: March 25, 2021, 12:33h. 

Last updated on: March 25, 2021, 02:35h.

Eris Exchange, LLC (ErisX) is temporarily icing an effort to list futures contracts tied to NFL games.

NFL futures
The Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) building in Washington, DC. ErisX is halting a plan to list NFL futures contracts. (Image: Wall Street Journal)

The Chicago-based operator of a digital currency exchange and clearinghouse announced the withdrawal of its plan on Tuesday. There was chatter that the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) was planning to deny the application. Eris, however, isn’t giving up on the idea. The CFTC is the regulatory body governing futures trading activity in the US.

We believe in these products, and the legal and economic analysis that underpins their viability, and want to give these products the best chance at coming to market,” said the bourse operator in a statement.

Last December, ErisX sent a letter to the CFTC seeking approval to list “fully collateralized and financially settled contracts” based on NFL money lines, point spreads, and totals. The intended audience for the RSBIX NFL futures contracts isn’t individual bettors, but rather sportsbook operators looking to hedge exposure to particular outcomes.

Solid Idea, But Work Remains for ErisX

The foundation for ErisX’s NFL futures contract is practical. Companies in myriad industries use these derivatives to hedge exposure to a variety of input costs. For example, airlines are among the most active participants in the oil futures market, while a food company, such as General Mills, may regularly buy and sell agricultural commodities futures.

ErisX is seeking to apply similar principles with its NFL derivatives. In theory, a sportsbook with heavy exposure to one side of an NFL game could use RSBIX NFL futures to mitigate risk and potentially diversify revenue streams. The exchange operator pointed out in its initial pitch to regulators that sportsbook operators primarily make money from the collection of fees, not outcomes of games, indicating that another avenue for increasing top lines would be appealing.

Although regulated sports betting is surging in the US, the CFTC reportedly expressed concern ErisX’s idea was too close to gambling. The agency was rumored to say the exchange operator didn’t adequately prove the commercial use case for the contracts.

Federal law allows the CFTC to bar derivatives linked to betting, and the statute doesn’t explicitly state what is and is not gambling. That means the commission has wide discretion, reports the Wall Street Journal.

ErisX Remains Optimistic

The crypto exchange company spent a year working with lawyers and regulators prior to filing with the CFTC. That’s a significant outlay of costs and time, but the firm sees utility in its offering.

“The utility of the RSBIX sports futures contracts for the industry is apparent, and is supported by multiple comment letters from sportsbook operators, among others,” said ErisX in the statement. “These operators are solely interested in the contracts for hedging purposes.”

Although its application is pulled, ErisX sees a silver lining in that it has more time to educate a wider audience of potential clients.

The company said it is looking forward to “further engagement with CFTC staff and the possibility of submitting the contracts for reconsideration at a later time.”