MLB puts integrity at heart of sports-betting partnership with MGM

Major League Baseball has followed in the footsteps of the NBA and NHL by announcing an official sports-betting partnership with MGM Resorts International.

As the first Official Gaming Partner of MLB, MGM will be able to utilize official league data on a non-exclusive basis and have access to elements of Statcast – the tracking technology used by MLB to analyze player and ball movements – on an exclusive level.

MLB has a murky history with betting, following the 1919 Black Sox scandal – in which eight Chicago White Sox players allegedly threw the World Series in exchange for money from a gambling syndicate – and the lifetime ban given to former Cincinnati Reds player and manager Pete Rose for betting on games.

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred made a point of emphasizing the phrase “integrity” at a press conference alongside MGM chairman Jim Murren in New York on Tuesday.

“There has been a huge change in public opinion and the legal framework surrounding sports gaming. It has presented an opportunity for all sports, and baseball in particular,” Manfred said. “Our research is really strong on the idea that sports gaming can be an important source of fan engagement.

“We operate in a really competitive environment and we have to take advantage of every opportunity to drive engagement by our fans. We have proceeded in pursuing this opportunity cautiously and thoughtfully, always with an eye on preserving the integrity of our sport.”

Manfred – who said that betting kiosks will not be allowed in MLB ballparks – added that the league has been working behind the scenes for the past 18 months to be able to put together such a deal. Two new integrity policies, which were discussed at the recent owners’ meeting in Atlanta, will be distributed to clubs in the near future once they are ratified.

“This has been a long project in the making for us. We have ensured ourselves on the integrity front by updating our policies, making clear what employees and players can and cannot do,” he said.

“We have also developed clear guidelines over what commercial activities are allowed at a league and club level. It’s more than making a business deal, it’s having in place a set of policies that give us comfort on what is always our most important issue and that is integrity.”

Natural breaks in baseball will provide MGM multiple opportunities to create in-game wagers. “Baseball is perfectly suited for this. On social networks, people will be talking about the next pitch, the next out, the next inning,” said Murren. “Baseball fans love data and this will increase the interactivity between the fan and the team.”

As part of the multi-year agreement, MGM will be designated an official sponsor of the league. As such, MGM will be able to promote its brand across MLB digital and social platforms, appear in advertising and promotional campaigns, and have a presence at Jewel Events, including the All-Star Game and World Series.

MGM will also be an official partner of the MLB Road Show in Japan and will look to secure multiple club partnerships.