MLB Makes MGM Resorts ‘Official Gaming Partner’ As Sports Betting Deals Proliferate

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Make it three sports betting deals for MGM Resorts International and the major pro leagues in the US.

MGM became the “official gaming partner” of Major League Baseball on Tuesday, following agreements the company already inked with the NBA and NHL. The deal includes access to league logos and official data for use in sports betting operations.

That data falls into two separate categories. The live feed itself is not exclusive, but MGM will be the only sportsbook operator with access to certain “enhanced statistics.”

Here’s MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred in the league press release:

“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. Our partnership with MGM will help us navigate this evolving space responsibly, and we look forward to the fan engagement opportunities ahead.”

Sitting beside the commish, MGM CEO Jim Murren followed what has become a familiar script:

“We are excited to enter into this historic partnership with MLB. 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.”

Make it three for MGM

MLB is the third professional sports league to sign a deal with MGM:

Add MGM to the list, announced on Nov. 27. The gaming heavyweight has casinos in three states with legal sports betting:

It also owns property in several other states that may legalize the activity in 2019 and beyond. Its most-recent purchase is in New York, for example, where sports betting legislation has found some recent traction.

This MLB deal will also be evident in Japan, where MGM has a new resort casino in development.

Leagues all getting sports betting partners

At least publicly, all four professional sports leagues initially met the US Supreme Court decision on the end of the federal sports betting ban with some timidness. Each drafted its own set of proposed best practices for state and federal lawmakers, and the NBA and MLB actively lobbied for the power to restrict the implementation. They wanted integrity fees, too, of course. None (save maybe the NBA) was ready to fully embrace an uptick in folks betting on their games.

May seems like a decade ago, though, and sports is warming up to gambling in a hurry.

Alliances between franchises and gambling companies have fallen into place like dominoes in recent months — enough that we had to create a sports betting partnership tracker to keep up. Millions, perhaps tens of millions of dollars are already changing hands at the team level.

“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.”

The next logical questions now: Will the NFL follow suit with a partnership of its own? And if so, will it be MGM again?

Other sportsbooks left out?

The list of candidates was much longer than just MGM, prior to the deal being announced.

Lest you forget, MLB has a relationship with DraftKings that dates back to 2014, including an equity position. DraftKings, of course, now operates DraftKings Sportsbook as a full-fledged gambling company. Both it and its primary competitor, FanDuel Sportsbook, are headquartered near the league offices in New York.

Really, though, any large sports betting company could be a potential league partner, even if not of the “official” variety like MGM is. That includes the likes of 888 and William Hill. Both are already involved in team-level deals, and both have the resources to put themselves in the national spotlight.

MGM was the clear favorite for this deal, though, given its existing ties to the league. It holds stadium naming rights for the MiLB’s Biloxi Bombers, for example, and its Mandalay Bay property in Las Vegas is set to host the league-wide winter meetings this year. While not partners beforehand, MLB and MGM were certainly friends.

Regardless of who MLB partnered with or in what capacity, money from the expansion of sports betting will flow into its coffers like water. A recent Neilsen Sports study projected the league stands to realize $1.1 billion in associated annual revenue — even without a legislative mandate for additional fees.