The NBA and NHL have been quick to take advantage of the burgeoning sports gambling industry in the United States. Since the Supreme Court ruled to strike down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) back in May, a number of states, including New Jersey, have moved to legalize sports gambling.
With sports betting coming out of the shadows, professional sports leagues and franchises have been more open about striking deals to try and generate new gambling-related revenue streams. Now, Major League Baseball, who has been reluctant to modernize itself for decades, is getting in on the action.
MLB announced earlier this week that it has agreed to a multiyear deal with MGM Resorts International. The contract will designate MGM as the official gaming and entertainment partner of Major League Baseball, marking the first time MLB has publicly affiliated with a gambling corporation. MGM sportsbooks will be granted access to MLB’s official data feed in order to generate betting odds exclusively. MGM will also be granted access to MLB intellectual property such as MLB and team logos. MGM will also be featured in some capacity during the All-Star Game and World Series.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said, “We are pleased to partner with MGM Resorts International, a clear industry leader in the sports gaming area, to work together on bringing innovative experiences to baseball fans and MGM customers. Our partnership with MGM will help us navigate this evolving space responsibly, and we look forward to the fan engagement opportunities ahead.” Financial terms of the deal have not yet been disclosed.
The NBA was the first American professional sports league to strike a deal with MGM when it did so back in June. The NHL followed suit in October. While the sponsorship is exclusive to MGM, MLB has retained the rights to sell the rights to its data to other providers in the future.
However, MGM will be granted exclusive access to some advanced stats. Advanced statistics have become an integral part of the modern game. Certain stats, such as exit velocity (the speed of the ball after it hits the bat) and route efficiency (analyzing the route a fielder takes to field a ball in play) will be sponsored by MGM. MGM will also be features at MLB events that take place in Japan.
Manfred continued, “There has been a huge change in public opinion and the whole legal framework surrounding sports gaming and I think it has presented an opportunity for all sports and baseball in particular. Our research is really strong on the idea that sports gaming is an important source of fan engagement and we operate in a competitive environment and we have to take advantage of every opportunity to drive engagement by our fans.”
Live betting is one of the fastest-growing aspects of the betting experience, and Manfred believes baseball’s slower pace lends itself to placing in-game wagers. He said, “It gives the opportunity to be creative with respect to the types of wagers.” Baseball’s pace of play has been an issue for the league under Manfred’s watch, with games consistently lasting over 3 hours on average.
Jim Murren, the chairman and CEO of MGM Resorts, said in a statement, “We are excited to enter into this historic partnership with MLB. We are thrilled to create a new one-of-a-kind fan experience for baseball fans. Combining MGM Resorts’ world class entertainment and technology with MLB data will continue to transform a rapidly changing industry. This partnership further amplifies the significance of our GVC JV, firmly establishing MGM Resorts and playMGM as the market leader in partnerships with major professional sports leagues.”
Sara Slane, the senior vice president of public affairs at the American Gaming Association, said, “Agreements between sports leagues and the gaming industry enable all sports stakeholders to work together to eliminate the illegal sports betting market. With MLB’s announcement, there major sports leagues now have official sports betting partners – evidence of our continued commitment to protecting the integrity of both consumers and sporting competitions and that contracts remain preferential to statutes in all sports betting deals.”
MLB and MGM are publicly committed to encouraging responsible gambling and trying to protect the integrity of MLB games and players.
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