MLB strikes first gaming partnership with MGM

NEW YORK — Major League Baseball became the latest U.S. sports league to partner with a gaming operator, with commissioner Rob Manfred announcing a multiyear deal Tuesday with MGM Resorts International.

The partnership designates MGM as the first official gaming and entertainment partner of MLB. MGM sportsbooks will begin to utilize baseball’s official statistics feed and have access to enhanced stats on an exclusive basis. In addition, MLB intellectual property, like league and team logos, will appear in MGM advertising and at the company’s sportsbooks. MGM also will have a presence at the All-Star Game and World Series.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

“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,” Manfred said in a release announcing the deal. “Our partnership with MGM will help us navigate this evolving space responsibly, and we look forward to the fan engagement opportunities ahead.”

MLB is the third major U.S. professional sports league to partner with MGM, following the NBA in June and NHL in October, and continuing the shift in the American sports landscape.

The sponsorship is exclusive, but the basic data rights are not, as MLB plans to sell it to other operators.

One area of data that will be exclusive to MGM is the advanced statistics, including exit velocity of a home run, speed around the bases and route efficiency to a ball hit into the field of play. Those pieces of data will now be co-branded with MGM.

“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,” Manfred said. “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.”

Manfred also said that the often-criticized pace of play could be seen as a positive for in-play betting.

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

In May, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, a federal statute that had restricted state-sponsored sports betting primarily to Nevada. Since the ruling, regulated sportsbooks have opened in Delaware, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and West Virginia.

“We are excited to enter into this historic partnership with MLB,” MGM Resorts chairman and CEO Jim Murren added in the release. “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.”

PlayMGM is the company’s mobile gaming platform.

As part of the deal, MLB and MGM will work together on responsible gaming measures and efforts to protect game integrity.

The partnership will extend internationally to Japan, where MGM will have a presence at grassroots baseball events.

“Agreements between sports leagues and the gaming industry enable all sports stakeholders to work together to eliminate the illegal sports betting market,” said Sara Slane, senior vice president of public affairs for the American Gaming Association. “With MLB’s announcement today, three 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.”

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