At least one soccer team, on the other hand, is apparently more than willing to welcome the industry into its sport.
William Hill enters the pitch
This week, the Las Vegas Lights Football Club of the United Soccer League, a professional organization a tier below the Major League Soccer, announced that it had teamed up with bookmaker William Hill as its “exclusive sportsbook partner to create an enhanced match day experience in 2018 and beyond for fans.”
“We are excited to partner with Lights FC,” William Hill US CEO Joe Asher said in a release. “Las Vegas is truly a sports destination, and the Lights FC have been a great addition to the city. We look forward to seeing their continued success both on and off the field.”
A European sportsbook power that is also well established in Nevada (and now New Jersey), William Hill will offer bettors a variety of ways to wager on each Lights FC match, including pre-match options and in-game odds. As a promotion, the bookmaker is offering $5 in free sports betting credit per Lights home win to bettors who register for a new William Hill Mobile Sports account.
“William Hill is an ideal partner for a pro sports team in Las Vegas,” Lights FC owner and CEO Brett Lashbrook said in the release. “The $5 Free Sports Bet is one of the greatest sports promotions of all time. What other pro sports teams pays its fans when it wins?”
Could this be the future of sports and betting?
The four major sports leagues in the US — the MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL — have not been that open to the idea of integrating legalized sports betting with their products. As you may recall, they were actually the plaintiffs in the SCOTUS case that ultimately struck down PASPA to open the door for regulated wagering.
The NBA has been more open about the prospects of sponsorship deals in a regulated market, given the right conditions, but the others have been more stand-offish, at least publicly. But we also learned from William Hill via Reuters that more US teams want to partner with the bookmaker.
Outside of the US, athletics and betting have enjoyed partnerships. In the English Premier League, bookmakers are commonly principal partners of teams.
Leagues vs. gaming, to date
Since the waning stages of the recent SCOTUS case, American sports leagues have been lobbying largely against existing gaming interests, and not with them, when it comes to sports gambling. Some of the leagues want a cut of the action, even going so far as asking for as much as one percent of wagers as an integrity fee or royalty.
State lawmakers, at least outside of New York, have been largely against cutting in the leagues. In New Jersey, MLB and NBA representatives were essentially laughed and shouted out of the room when they met with lawmakers as they were finalizing their sports betting bill last week.
Hostility has brewed throughout 2018 between gaming interests and the leagues, with no public signs of compromise. But is that poised to change as regulated sports gambling actually rolls out?
Maybe a second-tier US professional soccer league has set a precedent for future relations between sports betting and leagues.