NBA Commissioner Silver: MLB Best-Suited to In-Play Betting

NBA Commissioner Silver: MLB Best-Suited to In-Play Betting

Major League Baseball may be amidst an existential crisis regarding the length of its games and whether it needs to institute rules to speed up the pace of play, but the methodical nature of baseball does lend itself to some advantages -- especially with legalized sports betting flouring throughout the United States.

The idea that MLB betting lends itself to bettors better than almost every other sport was not lost on National Basketball Association commissioner Adam Silver.

The Idea

Silver shared his observation with MLB commissioner Rob Manfred during a conversation the two had on the phone a few years back, in an antidote reported by SportsTechie.com.

Silver and Manfred were speaking when Silver commented on Manfred’s public quest to speed up the length of MLB’s games: “Just remember, your pace of play is perfect for in-game sports betting,” Silver told Manfred.

That advice hasn’t been lost on Manfred.

“He’s right about that. I do think that it gives us an opportunity. There’s a natural flow to our game. Lots of lots people love that natural flow the way it is. I think the development of the sports betting landscape provides an opportunity to fill in those slow moments in our game that not everybody loves.”

Much of the attention on legalized sports betting has focused on wagering placed on individual teams, more often than not centering on whether a given team will win a specific game or cover the money line. But many believe, including Silver, that gaming isn’t only about a team winning or losing.

Instead, it is also about enticing fans to engage by providing the option to bet on things that may or may not occur during a game. In-play options like whether Player A will outscore Player B, which team will have more rebounds in the third quarter, or any other myriad outcome within sporting contest that would interest fans.

How Betting Comes to Baseball

In-play wagering is especially popular in New Jersey, the first state to legalize sports betting following the U.S. Supreme Court striking down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 last May, a ruling that opened the way for legalized sports betting outside of Nevada.

According to NBA senior vice president of fantasy and gaming Scott Kaufman-Ross, via SportsTechie.com, sportsbook operators in New Jersey have told him that in-play betting accounts for upward of 50 percent of the total handled collected.

“You’re already seeing in New Jersey how much having mobile and having that better technology means for in-play betting and the access to the league data,” Kaufman-Ross said.

And as Silver noted to Manfred, baseball is an ideal sport for in-play wagering. And not coincidently, with the forthcoming start to the 2019 MLB season, online sports-betting platforms are introducing gaming services toward fans who want to wager on specific moments within a game.

One such product, Batter’s Box, was recently unveiled by Pointsbet that allows users to bet on the outcome of every at bat -- a hit, out or walk/hit-by-pitch. With an average of 76 plate appearances per game, combined with baseball’s slow pace, users have ample opportunity to place wagers.

“In-play is just an incredibly engaging experience,” Pointsbet chief innovations officer Seth Young said at the SportTechie State of the Industry conference. “It’s incumbent upon the existing operators to create really exciting new markets to engage the customer.”

The desire to make their sports more appealing to consumers via in-game wagering is among the reasons MLB, the NBA, the National Football League and the National Hockey League have each reached individual deals with MGM Resorts International. The respective agreements includes each respective league sharing pertinent data that MGM then can use to set odds for in-play wagering.

“We were really in it for the technology,” said MGM Resorts president of interactive gaming Scott Butera. “They have a technology that’s eliminated latency. If you actually watch the game in the app, you see the play before it happens on TV.”

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