Pro sports leagues (pre-May 2018): Sports betting is the scourge of the earth and will ruin the integrity of our games.
Also pro sports leagues (post-May 2018): How fast and in how many ways can we get paid on this sports betting thing?
The latter is the new normal in a post-PASPA landscape. The cash grab initiative actually predates the May 14 Supreme Court decision. The request for the now infamous integrity fees first popped up in an Indiana sports betting bill back in January. The league would attempt to incorporate them – along with official data fees – in the bills for numerous other states.
They’d unanimously be rebuffed.
Leagues, teams getting more intertwined with gambling
Having repeatedly run into a legislative brick wall on that front thus far, the leagues are starting to adjust on the fly. In the spirit of “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”, the NBA and NHL have already struck partnerships that include remuneration for official statistical data with MGM Resorts International.
As it turns out, that was only the tip of the iceberg. Individual teams in states with legalized sports betting are also getting in on the action with their own deals.
This month also saw:
- The NFL’s New York Jets — which play their home games in sports betting-friendly New Jersey — signed a sponsorship deal with 888 Casino.
- Caesars Entertainment found willing partners in both the NHL’s New Jersey Devils and the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers for its own marketing deal. In the case of the Devils, the agreement includes a second sports betting lounge inside the team’s Prudential Center arena. The first will be William Hill-branded in a deal signed the week prior. Fans will be able to make bets through the respective sportsbooks’ apps within the lounges.
- The Jets signed a second deal during the week, this time with MGM Resorts International as their official gaming partner. The relationship will include a free-to-play predictive game within the Jets’ official app entitled “I Called It” that will offer prizes and other giveaways.
- To cap off things off, the focus fittingly was on the “O.G.” of U.S.-based sports betting — Nevada. Caesars Entertainment signed a 15-year agreement that makes it an initial founding partner of the forthcoming state-of-the-art home of the Las Vegas Raiders. The stadium is expected to be ready by the start of the 2020 season.
Money, as it always has, talks
Leagues and teams only occasionally flirted with the gaming industry as a whole prior to the eradication of PASPA. A few teams did have sponsorship agreements with local casinos. However, with sports betting essentially limited to just Nevada, the possibility of a marketing agreement with a sportsbook was a moot point — there weren’t any outside of the Silver State.
Therefore, the leagues had the luxury of pretending that point spreads, over/unders and the like were more or less dirty words that were never uttered or thought about. Yet all the while, an unquantifiable but relevant chunk of the audience on each of their games had some action riding on the contest, whether legally or not.
As it turns out, the progressive legalization of sports betting is not only bringing the public’s widespread craving for the activity out of the shadows — it’s shining a light on the voracious appetite the leagues and their teams have for it as well. In the latter case, the appeal comes in the significant amount of revenue and cross-promotion that the agreements they’re inking at a breakneck pace can bring.
Perks and features of new deals to be felt at fan level
And some of the details in these newly-forged alliances have the potential to reshape and enhance the way that fans experience both their local teams and local casinos. The Devils’ implementation of two sports betting-themed lounges with televisions and odds boards is one such new amenity.
MGM’s agreement to extend “expanded hospitality offerings” at their properties to Jets season ticket holders is another. The thought of Gang Green superfan Fireman Ed getting a complimentary aromatherapy massage to relieve the stress of attending games at MetLife Stadium brings quite the chuckle.
The Vegas stadium deal for Caesars takes things to a whole other level. Select Caesars customers and members of the casino’s Total Rewards program will have a chance for VIP dinners on the field, access to a Caesars-branded suite situated overlooking midfield, tours of the stadium and entry into special events at the team’s training facility.
And of course, while none of these new partnerships involve a physical sportsbook being placed inside a team’s arena or stadium, the possibility already exists for fans to place wagers on their mobile devices while at the events themselves in states where it’s legal to do so.
The fact that they’ll often be in sensory overload with respect to the signage, billboards and other forms of exposure for sportsbooks that these marketing deals enable should only help encourage that extra level of engagement.