The Boston Red Sox are pleased with the compromise bill that will legalize MA sports betting once signed into law by Gov. Charlie Baker.
Yet the legislative language will not allow the team to build a retail sportsbook near Fenway Park, at least as of now.
“There’s going to be a study of further retail things such as kiosks, but I think that overall it’s a model bill, and we believe the evidence is most people who do sports betting use mobile platforms to begin with,” Red Sox senior VP of legal and government affairs David Friedman told LSR Wednesday.
“So, for the moment, we won’t be opening a sportsbook here because it’s not part of the bill.”
MA sports betting partnerships next for Red Sox
Still, the Red Sox now have the opportunity to pursue either exclusive or non-exclusive MA sportsbook partnerships with legal operators once they are selected by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. They also could add a sportsbook-branded bar, lounge or restaurant if they desire.
All of those moves would bring additional sports betting revenue to one of the most iconic franchise in Major League Baseball.
Boston has partnerships with MGM Resorts (casino) and DraftKings (daily fantasy), both of which have significant advertising on or above the Green Monster. It’s conceivable, Friedman said, that both of those operators, if not more, will become sports betting partners of the Red Sox.
Player, staff education imperative to prevent issues
Legal and regulated sports betting in MA means that bettors will no longer to have to seek alternatives like other states, unregulated offshore operators and local bookies to place wagers. It also means the organization will have to be reminded of the MLB rules that prohibit betting on the sport for those on or around the field.
“For many, many, many years, there’s been mandatory training for players and staff about the rules revolving sports betting — including most important, the very clear law in Major League Baseball that we cannot bet on baseball,” Friedman said.
“Players can’t bet on baseball, employees —including myself — can’t bet on baseball, that’s always been the case. So that education has happened. I assume that there will be some additional reminders that, ‘Hey, once this is legal in Massachusetts you still can’t bet on baseball.’“
Integrity top of mind for team, league
Friedman stressed the shared need for all to keep integrity above all:
“There’s a few other wrinkles, but I think that again integrity is by and far the league’s focus. It’s our focus. It’s really, really, really important.
“So I think you’re right that we’re going to have those conversations.“
No advertising ban pleases Red Sox
Boston’s professional sports teams also were pleased that there were not significant advertising restrictions such as whistle-to-whistle bans during live game broadcasts. Those franchises sent a letter to state legislatures urging them to eliminate such a ban.
“We didn’t think it made sense,” Friedman said. “If you’re trying to create a legal market, then you need to let customers know, ‘Hey, there are these regulated, safe ways to bet on sports,’ then you have to have to have some degree of advertising to make people aware of what’s out there and whose products are out there.
“And certainly for us as a business matter, a reasonable amount of advertising is in our interests. MLB has some very well-thought out and reasonable limits on advertising during games right now. So it’s not going to become a Wild West of every single advertisement on TV is going to be betting on sports. So we’re pleased that the final bill didn’t include a so-called ‘whistle to whistle’ ban.”
Friedman said he didn’t sleep well as bill negations went deep into the morning but he was optimistic it would happen based on his intel.
“It’s been a four-year journey on sports betting,” Friedman said. “So the last few days were definitely intense.”