To say Dennis Drazin has had an antagonistic relationship with professional sports leagues would be an understatement. During the course of New Jersey’s fight to allow its gambling facilities to offer sports betting, no one was more outspoken in criticizing opposition from the leagues for the expansion of legal and regulated sports wagering than Drazin, an attorney who runs Monmouth Park and the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association.
Even though he is involved in a lawsuit against the pro sports leagues and the NCAA, Drazin said he doesn’t have a personal grudge against the leagues. He sees them as benefiting from places like Monmouth, which took the first legal sports wager in New Jersey from Gov. Phil Murphy on June 14, offering sports betting just as much as Monmouth will benefit from having betting on their games. He just wishes the leagues had approached this differently and sat down years ago to do something that made sense for them all as businesses.
“I think there’s so many games people wouldn’t watch if they didn’t have some action,” Drazin said in a phone interview. “The fact that there’s now a legal market helps the leagues, and their revenues are going to increase from more interest in games. At the end of the day, they should be thanking us, not upset with us.”
Drazin has a number of active beefs with the leagues, particularly the NFL, and some ideas as to how they can increase revenues as a result of sports betting without begging for “integrity fees.”
Federal bogeyman not a concern
While legal sports betting has begun to spread on a state-by-state level, the NFL has asked Congress to address laying out uniform requirements for the activity at the federal level. There was a brief threat of a subcommittee hearing in June with the NFL testifying.
There aren’t actually any sports betting bills in Congress, despite Sen. Orrin Hatch announcing plans to introduce one, and Drazin isn’t losing sleep worrying that Congress will come in and usurp the regulations for NJ sports betting.
“I don’t think they’ll get any place on the federal level,” Drazin said of the NFL. “To think Congress is going to drop everything for the NFL to address sports betting, I’m not concerned about that at all.”
“Integrity” fees are all business
The NBA, MLB and PGA Tour have been lobbying for a piece of each wager made in the various states considering sports betting legislation, making it seem like the money is needed to go toward extra costs in protecting the integrity of their games as a result of sports betting moving to safer and better regulated outlets. It hasn’t gone very well, beginning with New Jersey shutting down the leagues’ request.
When New York did agree to include 0.2 percent of the handle to the leagues, calling it a royalty, the bill didn’t end up passing.
“This is something that’s been a $400 billion illegal business for so many years with offshore companies and bookies and mob-related ties,” Drazin said. “I’m sure they’ve been concerned about integrity for years. I don’t think they are going to have to spend a dime more to preserve integrity in the legal environment than they’ve done all along in the illegal environment. I think it’s all business at this point in time.”
Technology a path for leagues to make money
Drazin thinks the in-play facet of wagering could have the greatest impact on how people watch games differently due to the expansion of legal sports betting.
“If a team is leading by 21 points, fans lose interest,” Drazin said. “But if fans are doing in-play prop bets, that keeps their attention on the game.”
The longer fans watch games, the more television partners can charge for ads all the way through, which means they will be willing to pay the leagues more for the rights. But Drazin thinks the leagues could really monetize sports betting if they were to utilize technology to cater to the needs of in-play bettors. Such bettors might even pay a premium to watch the game in a different way.
“They probably have technology that can assist not only viewership but related products for sports betting,” Drazin said. “If the leagues are able to utilize technology to increase the viewer experience with different camera angles and the ability to focus on different aspects of the game, by enhancing that experience they may increase viewership and revenues.”
Advertising an issue for now
Speaking of ads, the expansion of legal sports betting seems like an opportunity for leagues and their television partners to benefit from all of the new players in the sports betting market looking to attract customers.
Instead, Drazin explained how he bought ad space for his law firm during baseball games figuring he could switch them to commercials for Monmouth Park if sports betting was made legal, only to now have the MLB directing television stations not to run sports betting advertisements, even when these same stations have been taking Monmouth ads on horse racing for years.
Even so, Drazin is optimistic that this concern with running commercials for legal sports betting sites will be resolved by the NFL season. If it isn’t, Drazin is known to be litigious.
“I think by NFL season there will be sports betting ads, particularly since I think they may have legal problems with not taking our ads,” Drazin said.