As part of an interview with US Broadcaster ESPN, Major League Soccer (MLS) commissioner Don Garber has suggested that the league is currently in a position to begin establishing partnerships with sports betting operators.
A partnership between the MLS and gambling operators would have a significant upside for the industry, and Garber pointed out that brokering a deal would be the perfect way to grow the MLS brand.
The possibility of a new deal, according to Garber, would go hand-in-hand with the league’s current strategic development plans, bringing fans closer to the sport and opening it up to a wider audience.
Speaking to a room full of Press in Washington before Sunday night’s game between D.C United and Atlanta United, he reportedly said: “If people are going to do it, you might as well manage it, organize it. You might as well generate tax revenue for it and find ways that the league could use it as a marketing tool to have people engage more with our players and our clubs.”
From the interview, it appears that the possibility of future partnerships is not a question of if, but rather a question of when.
And while it is expected that whichever operator snaps up the deal will likely spend much less on MLS than they may spend on larger sporting leagues, the growth trajectory of the MLS is on the up, and so the pay-off time could be very short.
“At the end of the day, the most important thing for Major League Soccer as it relates to the potential of legalized sports betting is not necessarily revenue-driven,” Garber said. “It’s how do we engage more and more fans to participate, to get closer to our teams, to participate more deeply in our games.”
Floating the possibility of signing a naming-rights deal with a licensed gambling operator, Garber addressed rumours that New Jersey’s Red Bull Arena could be purchased: “If there’s a possibility with a gaming company naming one of our stadiums, I’m all for it.
“We’re in the process of getting close to a major league-wide sponsorship with a respected gaming company, and I’m very supportive of that as have the other leagues.
“It’s an evolving process. I think we have to see how it plays out state by state, but once the government says it’s okay, we’re certainly not going to do anything other than support it.”