DraftKings, MLB Sports Betting Deal Brings Future At Hand

DraftKings, MLB Sports Betting Deal Brings Future At Hand
© USA Today

For a few years, the future of online sports betting, and the future of sports itself, has been inevitable and obvious.

Now, in arguably the most dramatic example to date, MLB and DraftKings Sportsbook, is making that future — which is a mutual embrace that beckons fan participation — the present.

The two sides announced an expansion of their sports betting and daily fantasy relationship. The key is that fans will be able to watch a baseball game and, presumably, bet on it simultaneously in a seamless fashion.

The branding of the concept, as it is identified in a news release, gets right to the point — “Bet and Watch.”

As MLB and DraftKings explained it, fans who have both DraftKings and MLB.com active accounts will be able to watch a free live MLB game within the DraftKings app.

For a while now, it has been apparent that a key advance for sports wagering would be to pair spectating and betting with greater immediacy. Such an experience takes fan involvement from the visceral to the actual by offering the opportunity for a financial investment in each moment of game action. In that way, fans are longer merely fans; they become players themselves, competitors as it were, with a financial stake in ongoing game action — play-by-play or even more granularly, pitch-by-pitch.

The baseball games that will be available in the announced MLB-DraftKings integration within the DraftKings app will be weekly on Mondays, according to news reports.

Beyond this current merging of spectating and wagering, DraftKings and MLB plan to collaborate on future sports betting-themed game broadcast experiences that will live within the MLB.TV product.

DraftKings now joins BetMGM Sportsbook as an official sports betting partner of MLB. DraftKings remains the exclusive official Daily Fantasy Sports partner of MLB.

’Shape the Future’

The new arrangement announced last week, probably not coincidentally before this week's All-Star Game, refreshes what was a breakthrough association for DraftKings in the earliest days of daily fantasy. An official alliance with MLB nine years ago helped give the nascent DFS company credibility.

“In 2012, MLB helped ignite the daily fantasy industry by becoming our first-ever league partner, and that same foresight has persisted over the years as our organizations look to disrupt and innovate further through this expansion,” Matt Kalish, president of DraftKings North America and co-founder, said in the release. “As we adapt and scale integrations within the constantly evolving sports landscape, MLB and DraftKings will again shape the future of fan engagement in baseball and beyond.”

As part of the newest deal, several other cooperative efforts between the two were announced. DraftKings will be an Official Sports Betting Partner throughout the MLB Postseason with branding exposure, and there will also be promotions as part of the 2021 T-Mobile Home Run Derby.

“For nearly a decade, our growing relationship with DraftKings has been rooted in fan engagement and the second-screen immersion of sports gaming and entertainment products,” said Kenny Gersh, MLB Executive Vice President, Business Development. “This next iteration of unique and experiential offerings is something we look forward to rolling out together as baseball fans continue to embrace technological advances.”

’Bet and Watch’

The DraftKings-MLB “Bet and Watch” integration is noteworthy because of the dominance of the two partners, but the concept that fans could spectate on a computer or mobile device and wager simultaneously has been in the works elsewhere in the U.S.

In October, gambling operator PointsBet and Genius Sports announced a deal that allowed PointsBet to have access to live streaming of sports events along with accompanying data that will allow PointsBet Sportsbook customers to wager on the games as those events are occurring. The streaming content would be provided by Genius Sports.

According to the release at the time, the games initially being offered for televised real-time, in-play betting would not be of the U.S. “major league” variety. However, the recent deal between DraftKings and MLB clearly raises the bar with the popularity of the content and the reach of the gambling operator. DraftKings sportsbooks are consistently among the most popular sports wagering operations in the U.S., with online/retail operations in 14 states.