With the start of the MLB season on the horizon, it’s the perfect time to look at the sports league and how it’s fared with its sportsbook offerings thus far. While the MLB has a complicated history with gambling tied up in its all-time leading hitter, as the market develops in North America, they’ve had no choice but to jump in. Multiple partnerships have been reached, but has the beginning of sports betting on MLB been a home run?
Ahead of the season starting on March 29th, 2023, we’ve put together this piece to cover MLB’s success thus far with iGaming, their most valued partnerships, along with our suggestions on how brands can look to connect with MLB fans.
Success Thus Far
With a much longer season and slower pace of play than the other major North American sport leagues, the MLB find themselves without any true comparable in the market. That hasn’t stopped the MLB from charging forward in the online gaming world, sparking up a variety of partnerships in order to increase awareness around the topic. Since beginning with online gaming, the MLB has found that “sports bettors, when compared to average fans, are 40 percent more likely to stream, 36 percent more likely to buy a ticket, 30 percent more likely to read an article on MLB.com,” according to the Sports Business Journal. Cross selling users like this has plenty of value and the MLB has seen a ton of success here thus far.
It may seem minor, but the slower pace of play for baseball is a major strength for the sport in terms of gambling, even though for the general play of the sport, they’re working to speed the game up to make it more exciting for audiences.
With the MLB’s more drawn-out play style, in-play betting has been a big success thus far. DraftKings, who launched their MLB in-play betting offerings back in August of 2021, saw their handle grow by 250% year-over-year, according to Sportshandle. They also mention that during the final month of the last regular season, the average MLB game had $147,000 in micro bets placed on it!
All in all, MLB isn’t able to compete with the massive figures the NFL is able to put up, but has done rather well. Forbes reported that Americans bet $57 billion on sports last year and that baseball has been clearing 1 billion annually. So while they don’t have the biggest piece of the pie at the moment, they’ve been able to secure themselves a valuable pocket of the industry.
Strategies to Consider
We’ve already mentioned MLB’s slower pace of play a few times, but it really is paramount for the sport to make gains in the online gaming industry. The other major North American sports have far less breaks in them, with play moving on quickly. MLB has an advantage here, as every inning has multiple stops, giving punters the opportunity to find new bets they’re excited about. However, as we also mentioned earlier, the MLB is putting plenty of focus on speeding up their game, thinking of everything from robotic umpires to pitch counts intended to make the game faster.
If this comes into effect, it’ll be vital for operators to attempt to find way to counteract this and continue promoting in-game betting. Currently, advertisers of online gambling on the sport need to focus on the MLB’s two most popular games, which are in-play betting and player vs player games.
As with every other sport in North America, it’s important that brands or affiliates promoting betting on the sport are focused on localizing their content. Each state has different emotions attached to the sport, so finding the right athlete, like Shohei Ohtani, or influencer partnerships can make all the difference.
MLB have been very active thus far with partnering up, connecting with a variety of brands for valuable partnerships aimed at increasing exposure on the sport and the audience’s ability to bet on it. MLB already have deals with BetMGM, FanDuel and Caesars Sportsbook as their Official Sports Betting Partners, giving them three of the biggest sportsbooks in the US as valued collaborators.
They’ve also made waves in Ontario, making PROLINE by OLG an official sports betting partner of the MLB -- the League's first sports betting partnership in Ontario. As the Toronto Blue Jays are the only baseball team in Canada, having a partnership with OLG was a massive step for the MLB and has helped them create a space for themselves in the Ontarian market.
As many other leagues are, the MLB is working with SportsRadar for real-time game statistics and AGA for responsible gaming to ensure the safety of their users.
These aren’t the only ways that the MLB has made waves in the online gaming world though. The league has also been a vocal supporter of online sports betting, publicly supporting an initiative that would regulate online sports betting in California. They were the first major sports league to firmly take a side in this debate, supporting regulated online betting, as the state continues to hotly discuss this topic.
The MLB has already put itself in a strong position in the online gaming industry, with its shrewd partnerships and focus on in-play betting to connect with its wide audience. As the league continues to develop, it’ll be important for the MLB, and the brands promoting its offerings, to continue optimizing to ensure the optimal experience for fans of the sport and online gambling.