Baseball Signs Deal Giving Sportradar Exclusive Data for Wagers

(Bloomberg) -- Major League Baseball signed a multiyear contract authorizing Sportradar AG to sell its official data to bookmakers and media companies in the U.S. and abroad, staking a claim to an expected surge in legal sports betting.

Starting with the 2019 season, the Swiss firm will be exclusive gatekeeper for MLB data in international markets, serving as a middleman for sports-betting operators that want to offer in-game bets on MLB games, according to a statement. It will do the same in the U.S. on a nonexclusive basis.

The deal is one of the most direct ways for the league to benefit financially from the fast-growing sports-betting industry. Baseball joins the National Basketball Association as the only major leagues to have U.S. gambling data deals.

“The three things I look at when we’re doing any of these deals is revenue, fan engagement and integrity, and this one checks all three,” said Kenny Gersh, baseball’s executive vice president of gaming and new business ventures. “This is a nice holistic deal as we get into the sports-betting space more aggressively in the U.S.”

In addition to data for sportsbooks, Sportradar will have the rights to distribute live game video to overseas gambling houses to show alongside odds. Sportradar will also have exclusive rights to distribute stats to media partners in the U.S. and abroad.

In-Game Bets

Fast access to data is critical for sportsbooks that want to capitalize on in-game betting. It’s an opportunity in all sports, but more so in baseball, where each pitch, at-bat or inning provides multiple possibilities for gamblers.

The stop-start nature of the game is so well suited for gambling that it might drive interest in MLB overseas, according to David Lampitt, Sportradar’s managing director for sports partnerships. “Betting can help make that happen,” he said.

MLB has outfitted all 30 stadiums to capture as much data as possible on pitchers, batters, baserunners and fielders. Sportradar will turn the data into bets for gamblers.

Sports data have become more valuable assets with the legalization of sportsbooks and online wagers, but charging for it remains controversial. Nevada casinos have been taking bets for years without paying for information. Baseball’s plan is to make its official feed so good that operators will be compelled to pay licensees such as Sportradar to stay competitive.

Company Investors

“There’s almost an unlimited number of betting opportunities, but you need fast, reliable rich data to do it right and to really take advantage of them,” Gersh said.

Sportradar was founded in 2003 and is based in St. Gallen, Switzerland. Last year, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and private equity firm TCV acquired a minority stake that valued the company at $2.4 billion. Other investors include the National Football League, and a trio of NBA owners: Michael Jordan, Mark Cuban and Ted Leonsis.

In 2016, the company signed a six-year, $250 million deal to distribute NBA data overseas. It works with dozens of bookmakers, including William Hill Plc, Paddy Power Betfair Plc, Ladbrokes Coral Group Ltd. and DraftKings Inc.

Sports leagues are also seeking to persuade state lawmakers weighing gambling legislation to give them a cut of every dollar bet on their games, potentially gaining a second source of revenue from the expansion of wagering.

Under the deal, Sportradar will also help monitor betting activity on MLB games. The company will look for irregularities as a way to spot possible fraud.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.