MLB: Operators not using official data “won’t last long”

MLB’s gaming VP says FanDuel, DraftKings and Fox Bet are all likely to become official partners of the league

US sportsbooks not using MLB’s official data feed “won’t be around for long”, according to MLB’s executive VP of gaming and new business ventures, Kenny Gersh.

In a Sportradar media briefing in London last week, Gersh claimed that official MLB data was a key part of building a competitive sportsbook product in the nascent US market.

MLB is working on a slightly different model in the US than it has traditionally in Europe, where the league has an exclusive deal with Sportradar for the firm to distribute its official data to betting operators.

In the US market, however, MLB wants to deal more directly with the sportsbooks, albeit with Sportradar still turning the raw data into a betting feed first.

So far in the US the league has done an official data deal with MGM, with Gersh saying MLB also “essentially has deals done” with FanDuel and DraftKings.

Elsewhere, Gersh said the league was “making good progress” on a deal with The Stars Group (which will operate under Fox Bet), but some of the Nevada operators were proving more resistant.

“Some of the old school Nevada guys, they say ‘we’ve been doing this for years, why are we going to pay you?’,” Gersh said.

“And my view is, you’ve been doing this for years and what you’ve been doing isn’t that interesting. So if you want to keep doing it fine, but you’re going to lose in a mobile-led marketplace where fans have choice between apps and the best product will win, and the guys we partner with will have the better products.

“So I think we’ll have critical mass of operators. There’ll be some that don’t partner with us and I don’t think they’ll be around that long.”

The official data feed MLB is offering will allow operators to use the league’s official logos and watermarks, as well as the tag of official MLB partner.

Kenny Gersh, left and Sportradar's David Lampitt

Kenny Gersh, left, and Sportradar’s David Lampitt

Gersh said the feed also offers lower latency and includes unique proprietary data from MLB’s Statcast system which tracks everything that happens on the field including the speed of the ball off the bat and a pitch’s spin rate.

When asked about specific Nevada operators, Gersh added: “Caesars is a tougher sell but we’re getting there. I don’t want to bash them too much because they’re coming around. There are others who don’t have ambitions to expand out of Nevada or others around the country who don’t have the appetite to build the right products.

“I think a year from know the majority will be on board but its a process right now.

“Eventually the sportsbooks will say ‘we’re just losing out because that product is way better, they’ve got more markets, low latency, so lots of consumers will go in that direction and that will create a virtuous circle.”

Gersh has previously told the AP the fees for official data vary based on operator size.

One Nevada sportsbook manager told US outlet SportsHandle in June it was unlikely to pay up for the feed, adding: “We’ve survived a long time without it. We’ve had a pretty good run and that’s with them fighting us every inch of the way. Now, all of a sudden they not only want to partner with us, they want us to pay for information we’ve pretty much been getting for free.”

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