There’s more than one way to skin a cat, the old saying goes. And applying that principle to ensure a cut of exponentially increasing sports betting revenue likely has the leagues purring with satisfaction right about now.
Rebuffed repeatedly by state governments in their quest for integrity and data usage fees, the leagues seemingly have pivoted to two tried-and-true cornerstones of business — ingenuity and deal-making — to accomplish their goals.
MLB the latest to join forces with MGM
The latest example of such became official Tuesday. Major League Baseball (MLB) announced an official “all-inclusive partnership agreement” with MGM Resorts International. If that sounds familiar, it’s because we’ve been here before, and recently at that.
The NBA, arguably the most “progressive” of the pro leagues on sports betting prior to the Supreme Court decision that eradicated PASPA, fittingly got the ball rolling. They inked a deal with MGM in late July that made the latter their “official gaming partner”. The NHL mirrored their basketball counterparts just three months later. They too put pen to paper with MGM for an agreement that included remuneration for the leagues for their official game data.
As customary, both parties were effusive in their praise for the newly minted deal and each other in the press release announcing the move.
“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,” said Baseball Commissioner Robert D. Manfred, Jr. “Our partnership with MGM will help us navigate this evolving space responsibly, and we look forward to the fan engagement opportunities ahead.”
“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,” said MGM Resorts Chairman and CEO Jim Murren. “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.”
Plenty of benefits for both parties
The MLB-MGM marriage has a similar structure to those past deals. However, it also includes an international component. As per the terms of the partnership, MGM will also be an official partner for MLB grassroots events in Japan. Those functions include the MLB Road Show, described in the official press release as an “interactive fan experience” where opportunities exist for direct participation in baseball-related activities akin to those offered in similar events stateside.
As with the other leagues-MGM partnerships — and any other marketing/sponsorship agreements for that matter — this latest initiative is built on a foundation of mutual benefits. MGM gets expansive exposure for its brand and various offerings across MLB’s digital and broadcast platforms, both domestically and internationally. The gaming giant will also enjoy a similar presence at signature events such as the All-Star Game and World Series.
MLB will have similar visibility in MGM advertising and promotional campaigns. And, the league also has a commitment from MGM to use its official statistics feed on a non-exclusive basis. That essentially mirrors related wording in the NBA and NHL pacts. However, the agreement also includes a provision for MGM’s use of “enhanced statistics” in its betting offerings.
There’s even a nod to the now infamous integrity fees that have come to symbolize the pro leagues’ quest to establish a recurring financial stream with respect to legalized sports betting. The agreement pledges that both parties will “work together on comprehensive responsible gaming measures and work to protect the integrity of the game both on and off the field.”
Leagues showing they can play nice with sportsbooks … if the price is right
This latest league-level partnership is just another example of the settling of the dust in a post-PASPA reality. There was plenty of uncertainty — not to mention a fair amount of acrimony — in both the months prior and the months following the May 14 SCOTUS decision. As states have passed legislation and successfully initiated betting within their jurisdictions, clarity has been gained on a couple of fronts.
- One is certainly what was suspected all along — that there’s plenty of interest in legalized sports betting across the country, and money to be made.
- Another is that something has finally given in the ongoing dispute over integrity and data fees between the leagues and the states.
For the moment, at least, the alternate route of forging partnerships with individual sportsbooks — ones that often still afford the leagues a chance to come to similar terms with other gaming entities — seems to serve as a viable truce.