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MLB, NBA to sell stakes in fantasy sports companies

Major League Baseball and the NBA basketball league have opened talks over the sale of their stakes in daily fantasy sports companies DraftKings and FanDuel, respectively, but have maintained they are committed to their commercial partnerships with the firms.

MLB invested in DraftKings in 2013 and also signed a multi-year sponsorship deal in 2015 to make the company its official daily fantasy game.

The NBA purchased an ownership stake in FanDuel in November 2014, while the company also holds agreements with multiple franchises.

Both MLB and the NBA have told ESPN that separation talks have begun, but also said they will continue to work with their respective partners.

The MLB said: “While we have initiated discussions regarding potential changes to the structure of our relationship, we look forward to continuing our valued partnership with DraftKings. MLB and DraftKings will continue to collaborate on innovative approaches to enhance the fan experience.”

NBA spokesman Mike Bass added: “This space is evolving and we saw the need to take a fresh look at the structure of our relationship. FanDuel has been, and will remain, a great partner; we have simply modified some of the components of our partnership.”

DraftKings also released a statement that said its ties with MLB “are as strong as they have ever been”, while FanDuel confirmed it will “remain close commercial partners” with the NBA.

The partial splits come as the US Supreme Court prepares to rule on a case that could lead to major expansion within the country’s sports betting market.

At present, Nevada is the only state in which consumers can legally bet on sports events, under laws set out in the federal 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA).

However, New Jersey is leading an effort to overturn PASPA in order to allow other states to offer a regulated service. Both MLB and the NBA have declared their support for New Jersey.

DraftKings has recently indicated its intention to expand into sports betting by opening talks with casinos in New Jersey about potential partnerships, while the company has also appointed Sean Hurley as its first head of sportsbook.

Earlier this month, MLB lawyer Bryan Seeley said the league would not be a “part-owner of a bookmaker”.