The First MLB Player Endorsed A Sportsbook: An “Inevitable” Next Step and the Question of Integrity

Written By Katie Kohler on April 20, 2022
sportsbooks partner MLB

It’s a whole new ball game for Major League Baseball players and sportsbooks. As part of baseball’s new collective bargaining agreement, players can now endorse sports betting operators.

Before they end their road trip against the Rockies, Bryce Harper might want to get some advice from Charlie Blackmon. On April 20, the Colorado outfielder signed an endorsement deal with MaximBet. He’s the first active Major Leave Baseball player to sign with a sportsbook and others, possibly Harper, will follow.

New rules for MLB and sports betting

For the first time ever, the MLBPA negotiated a Sports Betting policy. Here are the highlights of the memo:

  • Players can enter into sponsorship, marketing, and other commercial arrangements with Sports Betting companies (subject to various restrictions).
  • Issues that relate to player safety which also include player families, investigatory due process, and commercial relationships with companies involved in legal sports betting.
  • All Clubs will be required to institute enhanced ballpark safety measures.  A hotline for reporting threats made against Players or their families relating to sports betting.
  • It shall be illegal for Major League Baseball and any Club to sell and/or license a Player’s confidential medical information, personal biometric data, or any non-public data used to evaluate Player performance in practices or training sessions.

Sportsbooks partnering with active players inevitable next step

Odds On Compliance is a technology and consultancy firm specializing in sports betting, iGaming, and gambling regulatory compliance. PlayPennsylvania spoke with CEO and Co-Founder Eric Frank about MLB players now being able to team with sportsbooks. At the time, no deals were made.

“Players being able to partner with sportsbooks is almost the inevitable next step in the ongoing growth of the gaming industry. Individual players being able to monetize their own name, image, and likeness is already common practice in securing endorsements with other business verticals, like insurance, automotive, and performance apparel. In the highly regulated gaming industry, we have to make sure the proper measures are in place to balance the rights of the players with the safety of consumers.”

Of course, active players pairing with sportsbooks calls into question the integrity of the game.

“With collaboration, regulation and proper safeguards in place, the integrity of the game can remain intact,” explained Frank. “While you can’t account for everyone on everything, you can deliver the tools  necessary to be successful. Well-structured and enforced regulation, robust education, and cooperation and buy in from all stakeholders can go a long way to protecting the industry.”

Other sportsbooks looking to sign MLB players?

PlayPennsylvania reached out a few weeks ago to FanDuel and BetMGM. We inquired if they had any plans to pursue this new form of partnership.

FanDuel reps said “no comment.” BetMGM did not reply.

In March, Edmonton Oilers star Connor McDavid became the first active player of the four major sports in North America to sign a deal to be a brand ambassador for a sportsbook when he inked a deal with BetMGM.

Lead image: Jack Dempsey/AP

Katie Kohler Avatar
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Katie Kohler

Katie Kohler is a Philadelphia-area based award-winning journalist and Managing Editor at PlayPennsylvania. Katie especially enjoys creating unique content and on-the-ground reporting in PA. She is focused on creating valuable, timely content about casinos and sports betting for readers. Katie has covered the legal Pennsylvania gambling industry for Catena Media since 2019.

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