2020 is in the books. Most are not sad to see it go, COVID-19 was unquestionably the biggest story of the year, and it will be talked about in history books for generations to come. But quietly, the legal sports betting industry in the US had a good year. It saw some significant gains in the 365 days and permeated seemingly every aspect of fans’ overall sports viewing experience. Perhaps sports betting’s overall acceptance in the US and the partnership deals that resulted will go down as 2020’s biggest, yet unforeseen, contribution to sports.
By the end of 2020, 19 states will have launched their own legal sports betting platform, with a handful of other states having either legalized or legislated their own sports betting. We not only saw more states go live in 2020, but we also saw the mainstreaming of sports betting during the year and the overall feeling that, like it or not, sports wagering is here to stay. With that comes the realization that sports betting will be a viable, contributing aspect of American society going forward.
A rash of partnership deals resulted from the legal sports betting newfound tolerance in 2020 as leagues, individual teams, and even media outlets clamored to take advantage of the “new age” of sports betting in the US. Let’s take a closer look.
The consequences of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in May 2018 took some time to really hit its stride, but in 2020 previously reluctant and resistant individual leagues signaled that they were “All-In” with regards to legal sports betting. Leagues aligned with top-tier sports betting providers in droves, and in 2020 league/sports betting provider partnerships became the norm rather than the exception.
MLB has partnership official betting partnership deals with MGM Resorts, the two DFS giants, and Fox Bet. The NBA has deals in place with MGM Resorts, Fox Bet, one of the two DFS kings, and William Hill. The NHL has partnered with MGM Resorts, a DFS behemoth, and William Hill. The NFL’s Official Betting Partners is Caesars.
It is definitely a far cry from a few years ago when leagues were reluctant to even acknowledge the potential benefit or presence of legal gambling on their businesses.
It didn’t take long before teams started signing their own partnership deals with legal sports betting providers, and in 2020, a host of teams took advantage of the increased exposure that comes along with such partnership deals. Signage, exposure, and cross-branding opportunities were too much for teams to pass up as were team-specific bonuses that were born out of the mergers.
Teams cited the enhancement of fans’ overall viewing experience as the main reason for aligning with sports betting providers.
Individual teams from different leagues have taken on legal sports betting partners. Such as the Dallas Cowboys, Baltimore Ravens, Las Vegas Raiders, Denver Broncos, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Chicago Bears among others in the NFL. The NBA’s Indiana Pacers and Philadelphia 76ers. The MLB’s Colorado Rockies, Chicago Cubs, and Detroit Tigers. The NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights, Pittsburgh Penguins, New Jersey Devils, and Colorado Avalanche are some examples of teams in North American pro sports that aligned with sports betting operators in 2020.
Sports Betting Provider/Media outlet partnerships also became a huge thing in 2020 and should realistically shape how we view sports going forward. It is rare to tune into a game featuring your favorite team nowadays and NOT see some sort of legal sports betting advertising. Whether it be on signage inside the stadium or whether it is part of the actual broadcast.
Sinclair Broadcast Group was thrust into the legal sports betting industry when they were acquired by Bally’s and CBS/William Hill, Barstool Sports/Penn National, NBC/PointsBet, ESPN/Caesars, and VSiN/BetMGM forged relationships in 2020 that will bring together TV and sports betting brands; fuboTV also got in the act late in 2020.
No Turning Back
The US professional sports scene has officially turned the page on its reluctance to accept sports betting as a viable part of their business going forward. Even the NFL Players Association has jumped on board with its Official Betting Partner partnership deal with newish DFS provider Monkey Knife Fight.
Partnerships, viewed as inevitable by some, took on a life of their own in 2020 and contributed to the heightened profile of legal sports betting providers. There is no turning back now – gambling is officially tied to the total sports viewing experience in the US with more proliferation to come.