MLB Partners with MGM for Opening Weekend Series in Japan

MLB Partners with MGM for Opening Weekend Series in Japan

Continuing its growing relationship with Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association, MGM International Resorts will serve as the title sponsor of MLB’s Opening Series in Japan between the Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners that takes place later this month.

The MGM MLB Opening Series will feature the Athletics and Mariners playing a series of exhibition games versus teams from Japan’s top professional league then play two MLB regular season games against each other. All the games will be played over five days (March 17-21) and at the Tokyo Dome in Tokyo.

This announcement follows MGM reaching an agreement with the league to become an official partner last November. MGM was named the “Official Gaming Sponsor of MLB” and “Official Entertainment Partner of MLB.”

Japan Getting Friendlier Towards Gaming

MGM partnering with MLB to sponsor its international series coincides with Japan legalizing casino gambling last year, a potentially lucrative market MGM is currently attempting to penetrate. Sports betting remains illegal in Japan.

“In just a few months as partners, MGM Resorts has really embraced this relationship and expanded their presence in the league,” said Noah Garden, MLB Executive Vice President, Commerce, in a statement. “MGM Resorts will have a great opportunity to engage with and experience the extraordinary passion of baseball fans in Japan. We’re excited to have our new partners become such a significant part of our games in Tokyo.”

As part of the agreement to be the title sponsor of the Opening Series, the Athletics will have patches on their uniforms promoting MGM. The patch is only for the Athletics’ games in Japan, as MLB prohibits teams from having advertising patches on its uniforms outside of international games.

When MLB last played games in Japan in 2012, also featuring the Athletics and Mariners, the teams had uniform patches for Boeing and Gloops, an online games developer.

MLB-MGM Deal a Reflection of the Larger Pro-Gambling Movement

Its burgeoning relationship with MGM exemplifies MLB’s altered approach to having relationships with gambling entities. A year ago, MLB was a major plaintiff in a lawsuit attempting to prevent the widespread legalization of sports betting in states other than Nevada, a lawsuit that ultimately failed.

But since the Supreme Court struck down PASPA last May, which spurned the legalization of sports betting in seven states with nearly 30 states currently either close to passing similar legislation or moving toward doing so, professional sports leagues have started to cultivate relationships with casinos and embrace sports betting.

The NBA reached a deal with MGM last July that named MGM the exclusive official gaming partner of the NBA and WNBA, and allowed the company to use league logos, highlights and data in promoting its sports betting services.

The pact was the first time a major U.S. sports league aligned with a sportsbook. MGM would later reach a similar deal with the NHL as well as the MLB.

Financial terms of the deal MLB and MGM announced Monday were not disclosed.

“We are very excited to partner with MLB and the MLBPA to deliver a one-of-a-kind fan experience that celebrates baseball in Japan,” said MGM Resorts Chairman and CEO Jim Murren. “We look forward to giving fans a unique experience to participate in baseball activities in and out of the Tokyo Dome.”