MGM Becomes Official Gaming Partner of MLB

MGM Becomes Official Gaming Partner of MLB

MGM Resorts International continues their strategic sports betting moves, announcing Tuesday that it has become the official gaming partner of Major League Baseball (MLB). As part of the deal, MGM has also been dubbed the “Official Entertainment Partner of MLB.”

MGM Resorts will have access to the league’s official statistics feed as an “MLB-Authorized Gaming Operator.” This will not be exclusive to MGM as other gaming companies can also work it out with MLB to receive official statistics from the league, but MGM, as part of the partnership, will have exclusive access to “enhanced statistics,” such as exit velocity, launch angle, and runners’ speed around the bases. We have gotten used to these things being shown on television broadcasts; such stats will now be co-branded with MGM.

“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 Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred in a press release. “Our partnership with MGM will help us navigate this evolving space responsibly, and we look forward to the fan engagement opportunities ahead.”

As is the case with these sorts of partnerships, there will be plenty of cross-marketing on both MGM’s and MLB’s media platforms. MGM will also make its presence known at live baseball events.

MGM Resorts Chairman and CEO Jim Murren said:

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.

Sports betting is expanding rapidly in the United States since the strikedown of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA) by the U.S. Supreme Court in May. States are now permitted to legalize and regulate sports betting as they so choose. There are now seven states with legalized sports betting and several more have bills in the works. Legislatures in other states are at least talking about it, but are likely waiting until 2019 to begin anything in earnest.

The enemies of sports betting for years have mainly been the professional sports leagues in the United States plus the NCAA, always claiming that sports betting threatened the “integrity of the game.” And while this isn’t a completely invalid stance – there have certainly been sports betting scandals over the years – the whole point to legalizing the activity is to protect consumers and leagues with proper regulations and monitoring mechanisms. After all, sports betting has been legal in the UK and Europe for ages and things have worked out fine.

But when the writing was on the wall and the leagues saw that the Supreme Court would likely kill PASPA, they started making preparations for the inevitable. And now, leagues like Major League Baseball have gone from “sports betting is devil” to “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.”

Or, as Manfred told ESPN.com:

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.

Further evidence that the sports leagues’ aversion to sports betting was not genuine can been seen in Manfred’s thoughts about sports betting in relation to the slow pace of baseball.

“It gives the opportunity to be creative with respect to the types of wagers,” Manfred told ESPN.com.

So a sport that was all “hell no” on sports betting is now rubbing its hands together thinking of all the different types of wagers that could be made. I see.

As mentioned at the outset, MGM is going hard to the hole with sports betting. At the end of July, it announced that it had become the official gaming partner of the NBA and WNBA and did the same with the NHL in October. No financial terms were disclosed on the MLB deal, but ESPN reported at the time that the NBA agreement was for three years and “at least” $25 million.

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