MGM’s data deal with startup football league raises eyebrows

TAGs: 888 Holdings, alliance of american football, DraftKings, MGM Resorts, New Jersey, sports betting

mgm-resorts-alliance-american-football-sports-betting-data-dealThe first Sunday of legal wagering on National Football League games outside Nevada brought plenty of excitement, but much of Monday’s talk was about a casino operator’s ties to a completely different league.

New Jersey sports bettors got their seventh digital wagering option on Monday via the first stateside appearance of 888sport, the sports betting brand of UK-listed online gambling operator 888 Holdings.

The new 888 sports product is available via desktop and mobile devices and is powered by European betting tech provider Kambi, which providing similar NJ betting backbones for DraftKings and PlaySugarHouse. Kambi and 888 have been linked since 2013, when 888 debuted its first Kambi-powered sportsbook.

888 CEO Itai Freiberger called the New Jersey wagering launch “a major milestone” for his company, which now offers sports, casino and poker products in New Jersey. Freiberger says 888 is hungrily eyeing expansion into other US states that may eventually realize that online gambling doesn’t actually carry cooties.

Meanwhile, DraftKings’ New Jersey sportsbook added PayPal as a payment processing option over the weekend, just in time for Sunday’s kickoff. The addition of PayPal puts DraftKings on a more level playing field with other NJ betting operators that already offer the digital service, including Caesars, PlaySugarHouse and DK’s archrival FanDuel.

But much of Monday’s talk was centered on a report regarding casino operator MGM Resorts, which has inked an exclusive wagering deal with the fledgling Alliance of American Football (AAF), a proposed new football league that plans to kick off its inaugural 12-week season on February 9, 2019.

On Monday morning, ESPN’s Darren Rovell reported that the AAF was developing an app that would provide free streaming of its games, onto which MGM will piggyback its wagering product, offering MGM the exclusive right to offer in-game wagering for the AAF’s first three seasons.

The plot thickens when you hear that the AAF plans to require its players to don wearable devices that track their movements in minute detail, allowing MGM’s oddsmakers a better read on setting betting lines and potentially opening up unique in-game betting markets for which MGM will be the only show in town.

The plot thickens even more when you hear the AAF talking about how the volume of wagers placed on individual players could affect how much that player is paid, i.e. players that generate large betting volumes could find their pay packets growing in tandem.

TV producer Charlie Ebersol, one of the principals behind the AAF, told AdAge that the new league was “not a gambling organization,” but “because of the type of data we can create and the manner in which we can capture it, we can provide the information faster to MGM and our end users than anyone’s ever been able to deliver it before.”

In August, MGM signed a deal with the National Basketball Association to use league-supplied data in crafting its NBA betting markets. Financial terms weren’t disclosed, but the only exclusivity was in MGM being allowed to describe itself as the NBA’s ‘official partner,’ which left many observers questioning why MGM would splash out the alleged millions it took to secure this right.


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