The Detroit Tigers strike a deal with PointsBet this week, becoming the first MLB team to form a sports betting partnership. The Tigers’ goal of this partnership is to “enhance fan engagement” at Comerica Park.
Also, PointsBet will have TV branding and exposure to the team’s digital accounts. Proponents of mobile betting are hoping it becomes legal sooner than later. Right now, Michigan lawmakers look at a fall launch of online betting, which could start after the 2020 MLB season.
The multi-year deal was struck after the MLB bent sports betting rules for MotorCity Casino. Also, PointsBet is the official betting partner of the MLB.
How the Tigers struck the deal
The partnership between the Tigers and PointsBet goes back to February of this year. Tigers owner Marian Ilitch is also the owner of MotorCity Casino in Detroit. MotorCity Casino was looking to add a sportsbook to its casino, creating a partnership with FanDuel.
MLB rules surrounding sports betting made it somewhat difficult for the partnership to happen. “The general rule will remain that if the club has an interest in a sportsbook, it can’t take bets on that club,” said MLB commissioner Rob Manfred in February after an owner’s meeting. “The rule does contemplate that there could be an exception provided that there is certain safeguards built-in. The safeguards would essentially ensure that there is no controlled input whatever from the club to the betting operator, has to be a completely independent betting operator.”
MotorCity Casino was allowed to have a sportsbook, but would not allow their customers to bet anything Tigers related. Ultimately, the MLB relaxed those rules and made it possible for the sportsbook to take bets on the Tigers, despite Ilitch having ownership of both of them.
Now, with the relaxed rules, the Tigers were able to strike a deal with the MLB partner, PointsBet. The Australian sports betting operator will have signage on The District Detroit app, which details the area surrounding Comerica Park, as well as in MLB’s ballpark app. Also, PointsBet signage will be around Comerica Park beginning this season. The Tigers will also receive a percentage of revenue from the bets that people are placing on the Tigers.
Last year, PointsBet offered odds on individual at-bats, and bet on a batter would hit a home run or strikeout, among other options. The sportsbook was the first to provide in-game odds for MLB games.
Mobile Betting in Michigan
Michigan is still in the works of launching mobile betting. Initially, lawmakers were anticipating a January 2021 launch of sports betting. Now, those estimates are looking at a fall 2020 launch.
There is still no exact timetable on when mobile betting will take place in Michigan, but PointsBet and the Tigers hope it can happen during the MLB season. If mobile betting launches in the fall, then fans will be able to place bets at Tigers games using the PointsBet app.
Also, there are no talks of a sportsbook operating in Comerica Park. However, PointsBet and the Tigers could come up with something if mobile betting becomes legal. Also, MLB rules could put restrictions on sportsbooks and MLB parks.
The MLB already relaxed rules for the PointsBet and Tigers partnership to take place. MLB teams might want more rules relaxed if it means adding sportsbooks to MLB stadiums to enhance the fan experience.
Overall, the Tigers and PointsBet partnership will have another dynamic once mobile betting is legal in Michigan. There’s no telling if it will happen before the 2020 MLB season is over. Fortunately, the multi-year partnership will be able to capitalize on new sports betting legislation when it happens.