US leagues cashing in on sports betting they once fought
Professional sports leagues, which once vehemently fought the prospect of legal sports betting, are now scrambling to get in on it.
In a pact announced Wednesday morning, the National Basketball Association is partnering with Sportradar and Genius Sports to distribute NBA betting data to sports betting providers in the U.S.
It came a day after Major League Baseball partnered with MGM Resorts to become an official gambling partner in the U.S. and Japan. MGM Resorts previously reached similar deals with the NBA, WNBA and NHL, and has a deal with the NFL's New York Jets to promote its properties and mobile app to fans.
FanDuel joined with the NHL and its New Jersey Devils franchise this month for sports betting and fantasy sports play.
"It definitely feels like a gold rush — the new industry with everybody trying to get a piece of it," said Sharon Otterman, chief marketing officer of bookmaker William Hill US.
"As the sports betting landscape continues to evolve at a rapid pace, these new partnerships will provide robust and reliable data to ensure the best possible gaming experience for our fans in the U.S.," said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.
Scott Kaufman-Ross, vice president and head of fantasy and gaming for the NBA, said the league has recognized the changing landscape.
"We're going to have better results in a regulated market than an unregulated market," he said.
New Jersey won a U.S. Supreme Court case in May that cleared the way for all 50 states to offer legal sports betting. So far seven states have: Nevada, New Jersey, Delaware, West Virginia, Mississippi, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. And although New Mexico has not passed a sports betting law, the Santa Ana Star Casino & Hotel started taking sports bets last month through a tribal gambling compact.
But in order to win that case, New Jersey had to overcome fierce resistance from the four major professional sports leagues.
Speaking Wednesday at a sports betting conference in New York, MGM CEO Jim Murren said the gambling company and the sports leagues know they need each other in the rapidly changing sports betting environment.
"We don't know how this is going to play out but we know each other," he said. "We've agreed to try to figure this out together."
The sports leagues still have not given up on the idea of gambling companies paying them an "integrity fee," consisting of a piece of the sports betting action ranging from a quarter of a percent to 1 percent.
"We're not interested in paying an integrity fee. We're actually offended by that concept," Murren said. "But we are willing to pay — and pay well — for data and sponsorships and co-branding. In-game betting is going to be so popular that to have league-endorsed data, the most relevant and current, is going to be critical."
But Otterman is concerned that gambling companies have access to betting data from more than one source, fearing that leagues could have a monopoly on their information.
The company that owns the Devils, the Prudential Center where the Devils play and the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers struck deals in October with bookmaker William Hill and Caesars Entertainment for sports lounges at the New Jersey arena, as well as marketing and promotional benefits.
Earlier this year, William Hill agreed to do promotional work and post odds at the home arenas of the Las Vegas Golden Knights.
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