Major League Baseball (MLB) has forbid its teams and their broadcast partners from accepting advertising from sports betting companies.
On Wednesday, New Jersey news outlet ROI-NJ reported on a June 8 memo that MLB’s deputy commissioner and chief legal officer Dan Halem sent to television and radio rights holders, reminding them that “they are presently not permitted to accept” advertising from sports betting operators.
Halem added that MLB clubs “may not at this time enter into any relationship with a pure sports book, or with a casino with a sports book to the extent that the arrangement involves sports betting.” Halem clarified that this week’s owners’ meeting would address how to develop “appropriate policies in this very complicated area.”
The memo appears to be in reaction to an advertising purchase by Dennis Drazin, head of the company that runs New Jersey racetrack Monmouth Park, which is scheduled to take the Garden State’s first legal sports wager at 10:30am on Thursday.
Drazin told ROI-NJ that he purchased baseball-connected advertising space on behalf of his law firm prior to the US Supreme Court’s ruling in May that struck down the federal betting prohibition. Drazin said he intended to convert that advertising space to promote the track but Halem’s missive has blocked that possibility.
Drazin said the league is “trying to tie my hands here” and claimed to be investigating whether Halem’s memo might constitute a Federal Communications Commission violation.
The irony here is huge, given that MLB games were once overrun with advertisements for daily fantasy sports (betting) operators DraftKings and FanDuel. The irony doesn’t stop there, as MLB has an ownership stake in DraftKings, although it claims to be selling out.
What’s more, DraftKings is planning to launch a New Jersey sportsbook, putting MLB in the hair-splitting position of having to determine whether or not a DraftKings DFS ad is helping to promote the DraftKings betting operation.
There is the distinct possibility that MLB is simply looking to punish New Jersey betting operators because state legislators refused to knuckle under to the sports leagues’ demands for a cut of wagering handle.
MLB, along with the National Basketball Association and the PGA Tour, have been doing a full court press across the US to convince state legislators to include this ‘integrity’ fee (or an intellectual property ‘royalty’) in their sports betting bills. To date, the leagues have been unsuccessful, although the pending bills in New York’s legislature do include a 0.25% ‘royalty’ on betting handle.