Why It’s Doubtful That Legal Sportsbooks Will Go Under Without MLB Data

Written By Martin Derbyshire on July 5, 2019

Major League Baseball‘s rampant desire to get a piece of the US sports betting pie is getting a little ridiculous.

Last week, MLB executive VP of gaming and new business ventures Kenny Gersh said legal US sports betting operators that don’t buy official league data “won’t be around for long.”

This is a bit of a departure from the league’s previous strategy. MLB tried and failed to convince lawmakers sportsbooks should be forced to buy data to protect the integrity of sports.

It only took close to a dozen states rejecting that notion before baseball finally decided to pivot.

An MLB scare tactic

Now, MLB has decided to trot out a scare tactic aimed at smaller operators with less sports betting experience.

Gersh’ comments center around the idea that live or in-play sports wagering is becoming an increasingly large part of the emerging US sports betting market. And that legal operators can’t really offer that type of MLB betting without official data.

It would seem some of the larger players in the market agree. MGM, DraftKings Sportsbook, and FanDuel Sportsbook have already struck (or are reportedly planning to strike) deals to buy MLB data.

However, it’s an idea that completely ignores Nevada sportsbooks. Sportsbooks in Las Vegas and beyond have been taking bets on baseball for decades without official data. All signs point to that continuing for decades to come.

MLB should be applauded for finally dropping the integrity argument and all but admitting this is really about money.

However, telling smaller operators they can’t compete without buying league data is wrong in so many ways it’s ridiculous. In fact, the opposite may be true.

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Smaller sportsbooks don’t necessarily need official MLB data

Sportsbooks survive on slim margins. If they’re forced to share revenue with leagues in exchange for official data, those margins will become even slimmer. Possibly even nonexistent.

To be fair, Gersh did tell the Associated Press MLB has no plans to charge small operators the same as large ones. Gersh claims MLB will tie the fees for the data to the size of the business.

However, MLB still refuses to admit they’re asking operators to pay for something they could find cheaper at one of its partners that already, collects, analyzes, and sells sports data. Or, they might even be able to get it for free if they mine the data themselves.

Larger operators that can afford it might want to strike deals to buy official MLB data in an effort to offer customers the best product they can. But the idea that any sportsbook will go out of business if they don’t is completely ridiculous.

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Martin Derbyshire

Martin Derbyshire has more than ten years of experience reporting on the poker, online gambling, and land-based casino industries for a variety of publications including Bluff Magazine, PokerNews, and PokerListings. He has traveled extensively, attending tournaments and interviewing major players in the gambling world.

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