The MLB And NBA Are Getting Petty While Losing The Sports Betting Battle

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Baseball losing sports betting battle

The NBA and Major League Baseball lobbying machine has not yet successfully implemented any policies they want when it comes to sports betting in a state legislature.

What they are doing is creating problems for themselves with public statements and behind-the-scenes dealings. Here are the two latest examples:

The NBA and Dr. J

New Jersey sports betting went live on Thursday with sportsbooks opening at Monmouth Park and Borgata.

At the latter, Philadelphia 76ers legend Julius Erving — better known as Dr. J. — was slated to make the first legal wager in Atlantic City. That seems harmless enough, right?

Well, when you factor in that the NBA basically accused New Jersey of enacting an awful sports betting law in committee hearing testimony last week, it doesn’t look as good.

NBA lawyers: “NJ sports betting is bad!” Dr. J: “LOL, nah, seems fine, I’ll place the first bet.”

The NBA is trying as hard as it can to get its preferred sports betting policies in place — including integrity fees and control over data streams — in states around the county. So it is, out of necessity, talking down states that don’t do what it wants.

But it may want to ratchet down its rhetoric given this development. If the NJ sports betting law is a disaster, as the NBA would have us all believe, then a former player placing a bet is a pretty bad look for the Association.

In reality, the law is just fine, and the world won’t end because Dr. J is going to place a bet on Thursday. (Smart money says he’ll bet on the Sixers with a futures bet.)

MLB and its weird advertising policy

On Wednesday, this report came down from ROI-NJ:

“We have been informed that club television and radio rights holders are being approached by sports books to place advertising/enhancements. Pursuant to MLB policy, clubs must inform their rights holders that they are presently not permitted to accept such advertising,” Dan Halem, deputy commissioner and chief legal officer, said in the memo.

So, no sportsbook ads, you say, MLB? OK sounds good. But daily fantasy sports ads from your partner, DraftKings, are just fine? (MLB also still owns equity in the DFS operator, at last check.)

But hold on a second. Isn’t DraftKings’ also opening up a sportsbook in New Jersey? Can they still advertise with MLB teams once that becomes reality?

The amount of mental gymnastics you need to do to say DFS ads are okay and sports betting ads are not is already mind-boggling. DFS, while officially and legally a game of skill in nearly 20 states, is still a skill-based gambling product. Drawing a line in the sand between DFS and sports betting is arbitrary at best.

It’s even worse when you consider an MLB partner, DraftKings, is going to be offering both. Yes, DraftKings will be promoting its DFS product through MLB channels. But it’s also going to be creating more brand awareness for its sports betting product.

Will MLB revisit either its policy or its relationship with DraftKings? It’s an interesting time to be alive if you’re a professional sports league.

Where do we go from here?

It would make sense for the leagues to start striking a more conciliatory and compromising tone.

But they have a chance at getting what they want in New York sports betting. So for now, you’ll get more “the sky is falling” takes from the two leagues while the prospects of victory are still on the table.