The Dating Game: How Sport and Betting Learned to Live Together

As the dust settled from the strike down of PASPA last year, one of the big talking points to emerge from the background noise and clamor was partnerships and, significantly, how they would likely shape and contour the road to wholesale legalization of sports betting in the US.

It was inevitable that much of the speculation would focus in on hook ups between newcomers to the market and the big, established names. What many did not predict was the eventual ‘love in’ between sport and gaming, two sectors that had very publicly been diametrically opposed to one another, philosophically and commercially.
MGM Resorts and the NBA flipped that scenario on its head back in July 2018 when they formally secured a multi-year alliance that made MGM the official gaming partner of the NBA and WNBA. It sparked a speed dating flurry with many tie-ups having been made since and still being forged.

Since that historic first meeting of minds between sport and gambling, we’ve seen the likes of the NBA join forces with The Stars Group and FanDuel. MGM has also forged partnerships with MLB and the Boston Red Sox. William Hill has also shared in the love by naming LV Golden Knights, New Jersey Devils and Eldorado Resorts as partners.

Further down the line we’ve seen commercial relationships formed with the likes of Sportradar and MLB; Harrah’s with New Orleans Saints and Pelicans; NHL and FanDuel, Caesars and Harris Blitzer; and Dallas Cowboys and Winstar Casino among others.

So from a state of the union perspective, the US sports betting sector is already enjoying rude good health when it comes to sports wagering and corporate sponsorship. Out of what was a divisive debate around a call by the sports leagues for fees to fund sports integrity and exclusive use of official data, there is increasingly a general move towards collaboration through commercial deals as opposed to federally imposed fees.

Former regulator and Chief Integrity Officer of the Sports Wagering Integrity Monitoring Association (SWIMA) George Rover was among those to argue for commercial arrangements with regard to integrity and data. Addressing the last edition of SBC’s Betting on Sports conference, he told delegates: “I think the leagues have a lot of gall to ask for an integrity fee. They battled the state of New Jersey for nine years. I was there when that was occurring.”

“Not once did they want to come to the table and speak to the regulators or the state about resolving the issue, not once, total radio silence, even after the case, no conversations with regulators of the state of New Jersey to try and resolve the issue. So the point is, when it comes to official data I believe it shouldn't be mandated, but I do believe there's a place for official data.”

Strong words indeed, but clearly they have chimed with the times as US sports wagering looks ahead to more states going legal and a growing trail of partnerships between the leagues and betting providers. Who would have predicted that when PASPA was in its pomp?

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