Online bookmaker Betcris announced Thursday it had reached a deal Major League Baseball as its “official wagering partner” in Latin America.
Betcris is an interesting choice of partner for MLB, given the online gambling operator’s checkered past and service of the US market well before the fall of the federal ban.
The MLB & Betcris deal
The deal is like many between US leagues and sportsbook operators that have come more frequently in the past two years.
The multi-year deal gives Betcris “access to Official MLB Data, league marks, and logos for its website and other wagering platforms, including a free-to-play mobile app that is currently under development by Betcris.” Betcris stated that they “will also collaborate on best-in-class practices to protect the integrity of MLB games.”
More info from Betcris here, including quotes from Kenny Gersh, Executive Vice President of Gaming and New Business Ventures for MLB and Betcris CEO JD Duarte.
Betcris, the MLB and betting
MLB had long been an opponent of any form of sports gambling, regulated or otherwise. But since the fall of the federal ban in 2018, MLB has relaxed its stance and even actively lobbies for legal sports betting in some states.
On its face, the deal doesn’t appear to be terribly controversial. BetCris, a part of TV Global Enterprises Ltd., is licensed by the Malta Gaming Authority and serves a number of countries, mostly in Central and South America; it is based in Costa Rica. It is generally considered a market leader in terms of setting lines for many sporting events and is often the first to post odds for markets.
Betcris does not currently hold a license in the United States and also includes the US as one of its restricted countries.
However, Betcris served the US market up until at least 2007; at the time, of course, single-game sports betting was not legal in any state outside of Nevada. Betcris customers were migrated at the time to Bookmaker.eu, a site that still serves the US.
It’s not clear if Betcris could be licensed in any US jurisdiction given its history, however; more on some of Betcris’ sordid past here.
Of course, Betcris was hardly alone in serving the US market and then leaving in the wake of the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. One of the most high profile departures was Pinnacle Sports, which also stopped serving the US; similarly, its path into the US market is murky.
There is also the example of PokerStars, which now serves US jurisdictions, despite taking US customers at its online poker site before 2011. Its domain was seized that year for violating US law; since then its parent company has twice been sold, once to Amaya, then more recently Flutter. (PokerStars still is not allowed to operate in Nevada.)
Did Betcris quit the US cold turkey?
It’s of note that a number of websites that provide information about offshore gambling link Betcris to a network of poker sites known as the Winning Poker Network. WPN’s best-known site is America’s Cardroom, which serves US players and also offers sports betting and online casino. It offers none of the above with a license from any US state.
You can see the connection between Betcris and Winning Poker Network via tournament series that were run at Betcris (info here) and America’s Cardroom (info here) in 2014. Most old information about Betcris poker offerings no longer appears on its site.
What’s it all mean?
Here’s where things stand today:
Betcris is generally considered a good actor, presently, serving Latin American markets and carrying a license from Malta.
But for MLB, it’s an interesting partnership to make given the company’s history and MLB’s resistance to a legal sports betting industry prior to 2018. For years, MLB told us legal sports betting was bad; now it’s partnering with what was once an offshore sportsbook.
But the deal is here, and MLB will apparently help to promote legal betting — and Betcris — in Latin America.