The NBA unveiled its first major sports betting-related sponsorship Tuesday, as the league announced MGM Resorts as its official gaming partner. We covered the big takeaways here — and had an exclusive Q&A with the NBA’s head of gaming here — but if we want to really look at the most important part of this deal, it comes down to the data.
WHAT DATA ARE WE TALKING ABOUT?
The league is focused on two key areas in its legislative and partnership efforts:
- The official NBA data it’s collecting and sending out.
- The data it receives from MGM about bettors.
The data going out is key in both avoiding markets being compromised by illegal stats collection and providing books with as many revenue-making opportunities as possible. The New York Times outlined it nicely:
“The fleeting data they are collecting — the minutia of what is happening in the game — is the lifeblood of sports betting, perhaps the most crucial and valuable element of the entire industry. If gambling operators are to monetize sports betting fully, they have to offer wagers on far more than the outcomes of games. Data on the second-by-second action — exactly when a goal is scored, where it landed in the net, who had the assist — creates manifold betting opportunities.
In Britain, this so-called in-play betting market is robust. In the United States, it may be the greatest hope for betting operators after the Supreme Court struck down a federal ban on sports betting and as states scramble to accept wagers. That means accurate and reliable data must get to betting operators like casinos, websites and phone apps fast, usually in a second or two — well ahead of the roughly five-to-10-second delay baked into television broadcasts.”
That data has real value to MGM. It is the first provider to have access to the official feed, and as such, it can promote that it has the most reliable and fastest data for bettors, particularly those looking to wager in-game.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: MGM Grand casino/hotel
In-game betting is set to see massive gains in the U.S. given the explosion of mobile technology options. The more data points MGM can reliably track in real time with help from the NBA, the more potential bets it can offer on the fly. And as we all know: More bets mean a larger handle, which inevitably translates to more profit for the sportsbooks.
(An important note: The league said MGM did not purchase exclusive rights to the data, which leaves it open to other operators while setting a market.)
Bookmakers are worried that this type of thinking creates a monopoly, as there’s only one true official data feed. The leagues, meanwhile, see it as one of their few options to get a piece of sports betting revenues.
On the other end, MGM will provide the league with real-time anonymized betting data, something the NBA considers paramount with regard to its integrity concerns. Bookmakers obviously want to control everything when it comes to that data, citing their long-standing understanding of the industry and their own clientele.
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MGM’s move shifts the precedent on that data collection going forward, applying more pressure on both providers to share the data and legislatures to mandate it.
The question now: How will the league respond once other books are operating outside of this agreement?
Does the NBA pursue legal action against books for using what it claims is its intellectual property without an agreement? Does that alter the way that legislation is drawn up at the state level?
There are still more questions than answers, but it’s hard to look at Tuesday’s announcement as anything but a win for the NBA in its pursuit to influence how legal sports betting operates in the United States.