Las Vegas Sportsbooks at Odds on Paying for Official League Data

  • Some sports betting brands pay pro sports leagues for direct data feed
  • MGM believes data speed and volume makes for a better product
  • Partnerships also make sportsbooks look more legitimate to customers
  • Other operators not sure cost is worth it over third-party providers
interior of a Las Vegas sportsbook
While some Las Vegas sportsbooks have signed agreements to get official statistical data from pro sports leagues, others do not believe it is worth the price. [Image:]

Data deals revenue stream for leagues

As legal sports betting continues to spread throughout the United States, one of the key decisions for sportsbooks is where to get their statistical data from. Though some companies have partnered with professional sports leagues to access official league data, not everyone is convinced that is the way to go.

According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the sports betting industry is divided on whether to pay the leagues for their data or go with third-party providers.

For a while, the leagues had been trying to lobby state legislatures to include an “integrity fee” in sports betting legalization bills. The leagues said they wanted a portion of sportsbooks’ revenue to help “protect the integrity of the games,” often along with an official league data mandate, but lawmakers generally saw that for the money grab that it was. Now, the path toward additional revenue tends to be the sale of data to the gaming companies and bookmakers.

MGM sees benefit in official data

On one side of the coin is MGM Resorts International, which has signed sports betting partnerships with every major professional sports league in the US except for the NFL. Those deals include access to league data and titles such as “official gaming partner.”

Scott Butera, president of interactive gaming at MGM, told the Review-Journal that the partnerships automatically boost his company’s profile. He said:

If you saw the MGM name with Major League Baseball or the NBA or NHL, you’d say ‘Hey, this is absolutely legitimate.’”

Butera also believes that being able to tap into the leagues’ official data is very important. It is the speed that is the big deal, allowing MGM to potentially offer better in-game betting products. In-game betting can keep viewers engaged, meaning a win-win for both leagues and sportsbooks.

Other sportsbooks wary of cost

On the flip side is William Hill, which has deals with multiple leagues, though not all include data. One reason for this is because William Hill US CEO John Asher isn’t as keen on in-game betting.

To Asher, the exclusive data provided in the league agreements just isn’t that important for sportsbooks. He specifically talked about data the NHL is putting out that shows how fast a player skates or how hard they hit the puck. Asher believes that’s more important to NHL scouts than it is to sportsbooks and their customers.

“I’m not sure how many people care if [Golden Knights center William] Karlsson or [right wing Alex] Tuch is faster. I don’t know how much of that will translate to betting. […] It becomes disruptive to the viewing experience,” he told the Review-Journal. “Ultimately, the market will decide whether [this data] is useful.”

Westgate sportsbook director John Murray said that his casino is up in the air when it comes to official league data. He explained that price matters, and he is “skeptical” about how much of an advantage getting data from the leagues would be over acquiring it from a third party.

Caesars Entertainment, a chief rival of MGM, has not inked any data deals with professional sports leagues. Christian Stuart, executive vice president of gaming and interactive entertainment for Caesars Entertainment, cited similar reasons to Murray:

You want to be in good graces with the leagues, but you also don’t want to pay for stuff you don’t think you need.”

“We can’t start handing money out to everybody,” Stuart added.

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