Finding common ground between the major sports leagues and the sports betting world has been a little like looking for hens’ teeth. Since PASPA was ‘ceremoniously’ dismantled back in May, the leagues have searched long and hard for a willingness on the part of the industry and state law makers to agree to a one per cent integrity fee. Those calls have hitherto been met with a fractious blend of derision and outright cynicism. Only New York conceded to such an arrangement, but missed its legislative deadline in any case.
Yesterday’s announcement that MGM will form an official partnership with the NBA to use its data and branding will, therefore, be viewed as something of a game changer in that respect. The terms of the deal have not been revealed, but according to ESPN it will cost MGM $25m over three years. So still no integrity fee, but instead a form of ‘compensation’ for the use of data or, as the leagues would prefer to call it, intellectual property.
Interestingly, the partnership appears to be non-exclusive. That means, presumably, the NBA and all its teams who sail within her are free to jump into bed with other sports wagering providers. Time will tell!
But what this deal does achieve, quite neatly, is create a differential in the market place, especially when it comes to the much mooted dilemma of where bettors will go to place their wagers. MGM clearly sees official data and branding as having immense pulling power, and they will be hoping that that pull is sufficiently strong to convince bettors to eschew the established black market route and place their bets on the level.
Dial in some of the main partnership details such as cross-platform integration, the use of the NBA’s digital assets and social media platforms, and it all starts to sound highly compelling, particularly if you’re one of the several million loyal NBA fans waiting to place a bet.
Ultimately, though, the MGM and NBA tie-up strikes a first blow for the leagues in their bid to gain a slice of the betting action. While some observers have cited the integrity argument as specious, there are always two sides to every story. The NBA’s Adam Silver crystalised the debate more succinctly than anyone so far when he pointed out that musicians are paid a royalty when their music is played, hence the same rationale should apply to the way the NBA’s ‘product’ is used by betting providers. Whether you agree or not, it’s an interesting view.