MLB partnerships and free wagering apps are a hit.
If you look closely soon on second base you might see a virtual ad for Draft Kings or Fanduel appear. It is hard to assess what will come next as Major League Baseball quickly embraces legalized wagering with partnership opportunities and bold new outlets for revenue income. That might not seem surprising, but if you turn back the clock only a few brief years ago it might.
Before the U.S. Supreme Court repeal of PASPA (the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act), MLB was second in line behind the NFL as the most voracious opponent AGAINST repealing the 1992 law and enforcing the UIGEA (Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act). Not nearly as vocal as the NFL, but baseball did have their representatives and lobbyists often appearing in court and hearings to soundly defeat any potential action from occurring, pre-May 2018.
Flash forward to our shortened 2020 baseball season and those goofy cardboard cutouts of fans are not the only noticeable new things to look for in ballparks. MLB has now warmly embraced advertisers like MGM and PointsBet. New partnerships have been formed between teams and casino entities with many more expected to come. Simply put, if you can't beat em', join em'. And if there is a lot of cash to be obtained, frankly MLB might as well, marry em'.
Let "Free-dom" Ring $$
A very clever marketing strategy deployed through the new licensed U.S. sports wagering sector is utilizing the popular "free to play" applications or apps on everyone's cell phones. They are fun, easy to download and most important of all, very enticing. The debatable question here is are they a lure for the wrong group toward a potentially addictive problem.
This week, MLB seems to be leading the way along with their partnership with MGM Resorts, announcing a new unique baseball app, certainly designed to appeal to kids. It's a free-play prediction game, which is "presented" by BetMGM, the customer-facing brand of the joint venture of MGM and UK-listed gambling giant GVC Holdings. MGM became MLB's first official gaming partner in late-2018.
The Rally apps allows players to earn points by predicting both the outcomes of games and the margin of victory. It also features in-play game elements, including whether a batter will strike out, gets on base, or maybe hit a home run, etc. If an individual player scores enough points over the duration of each contest – be it a single game or the entire season, they can win prizes, including lucrative cash rewards.
In press statements, MLB insists that the app will not connect to the BetMGM real-money sportsbook. Not surprising, critics are already lining up (as they should be), decrying this is an excellent way to groom children for actual sports betting, once they attain legal age depending on each state's rules and jurisdictions. Sort of a method to create a minor league for kids, hoping to bring them along someday for "the big show".
It would be tough to argue against this logic once fans and families are allowed back into major league stadiums. Daddy might be entering his bets and checking scores through his BetMGM app, while Junior is playing along with his in-game free Rally app to avoid falling asleep. I suppose very soon we will be able to have hot dogs and popcorn delivered directly to our exact seat locations utilizing similar cell phone apps.
Around the Bases
In another announcement, MLB has secured opportunity to gain incremental revenue while most stadiums are closed to spectators and their onsite advertising advantage.
The league said that it would for the first time allow "on-field advertising" during games, including digitally imposed ads for games broadcast on TV or streamed online. The officially approved locations for these ads include the back of the pitcher's mound, behind home plate and on the grass outside the first-base lines.
MLB is reportedly keen on offering creative new ways to enable stakeholders – including MLB itself – to "fulfill marketing commitments" during the shortened 60-game season. The question now becomes – will betting operators be permitted to run on-field ads in states in which they are licensed to operate? Therefore, can we expect to see an MGM or DraftKings.com ad appear as a pitcher holds a runner on, during a mound conference, etc.
Television commercials for sportsbooks were first introduced last year. Also expect them to be even more common during this coronavirus baseball season. PointsBet just signed a new deal with the Detroit Tigers and additional MLB affiliated partnerships are expected to come.
Welcome Back Betcris
Perhaps the most interesting news of the week involved well-known international sportsbook Betcris. On Thursday, the Costa Rica-based, Malta-licensed Betcris announced that it was the new Official Wagering Partner of MLB in Latin America. The ‘multi-year international partnership’ allows Betcris access to official league data for betting purposes, as well as trademark access for wagering platforms, plus a new free-play mobile app that Betcris is developing.
You may recall Betcris left the U.S. market well over a decade ago following passage of the UIGEA, while PokerStars, whose parent company also controls FoxBet, continued to serve US customers until the company’s indictment by federal authorities in 2011. The eye-raising here was because the deal marked the first pact MLB signed with a gambling company that previously catered to many U.S.-based customers.
MLB's VP of gaming & new business ventures Kenny Gersh said Betcris was 'the right gaming operator' to both cater to Latin America's existing baseball fans and to bring new fans into the fold. Gersh said Betcris had "taken great strides in recent years to listen to their users" and the company's vast experience would "further elevate the engagement opportunities" for MLB's LatAm audience.
Translated that means that advertising revenues would be abundant through BetCris for MLB serving their huge Central America and South America core. Also knowing that Latin American players fill approximately 30% of MLB rosters. For Betcris, a terrific new opportunity to gain a foothold of loyal new wagering customers.
Enjoy the upcoming C-19 shortened baseball season beginning this weekend where we hope to see a traditional World Series again in October. Just make sure to keep your PC, laptop, and cellphone nearby to catch all the exciting "action".
Who knows? We might see updated lines appear sometime on home plate in the future?
Glenn Greene covers the games from a betting angle every week exclusively at OSGA.com. For weekly betting insights, including previews and picks from Glenn, click here.