Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred signaled this week that his organization may be gearing up for a deeper integration with daily fantasy sports sites.
That’s per the Commissioner’s comments regarding DFS in a recent Washington Post interview.
“I think that you will see us have relationships in that fantasy space,” Manfred told the Post. “Fantasy started with us, and we will continue to be involved in that space.”
DFS integration with baseball limited to date
MLB currently has a relatively limited relationship with DFS.
DraftKings provides the “official mini fantasy game of MLB” (a free-play-only game) thanks to a deal struck in March 2014.
But that’s about the full extent of the linkage, which pales in comparison to other major leagues:
- The NFL does not have a league-wide deal but four major teams and several individual players have promotional relationships with DFS sites.
- The NBA is an investor in FanDuel and over a dozen individual teams have deals with FanDuel or DraftKings.
- The NHL has a league-wide deal with DraftKings, as do a half-dozen individual teams.
Extended MLB relationship could be savior for DraftKings
Manfred’s comments have to be heartening for DraftKings investors.
The number two DFS site had a tough 2014, watching market share slip to FanDuel even as DraftKings spent aggressively on advertising and high-profile promotional tie-ins such as the World Series of Poker.
If MLB were more aggressively embrace DFS, that could provide a sorely-needed competitive edge for DraftKings – assuming the site’s current relationship with the league is maintained and expanded.
Are daily leagues baseball’s bridge to legalized sports betting?
In the same period as the Post interview, Manfred touched on the issue of legalized sports betting during an episode of ESPN’s Outside the Lines.
“[G]ambling in terms of our society has changed its presence,” Manfred said.
“And I think it’s important for there to be a conversation between me and the owners about what our institutional position will be.”
It’s not difficult to imagine a world where a fuller embrace and integration of daily fantasy sports provides something of a proof of concept for owners and executives nervous about taking a full “no to go” leap on sports betting.
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