Major League Players Will Wear MGM Patches During Games in Japan
(Bloomberg) -- When Major League Baseball holds its opening series in Japan next month, some of the players will have an unusual look: Patches on their uniforms will promote MGM Resorts International.
The casino giant is the title sponsor of the series, an opportunity for MGM to raise its profile in a key new market. Japan legalized casino gambling last year, and MGM is currently jockeying for position.
As part of the sponsorship deal, the Oakland Athletics will wear MGM patches during their games against the Seattle Mariners at the Tokyo Dome on March 20 and 21. Terms of the agreement with baseball and its players union, a separate addition to the marketing partnership that MLB and MGM signed in November, weren’t released.
The MGM patches also show just how far Major League Baseball has come in embracing the rapidly growing world of sports gambling. Twelve months ago, baseball was among the major plaintiffs in a lawsuit aimed at preventing the spread of legal sports gambling beyond Nevada. Since then, the organization has signed MGM as its first leaguewide sports-betting partner.
MGM has been laying the groundwork to target Japan’s nascent gambling industry, Chairman Jim Murren said on a conference call earlier this month.
“It will be highly competitive,” he said. “But I think the cards are stacked in the favor of those who are prepared, who have been working hard.”
Baseball’s international games are the only time teams are allowed to wear advertising patches on their jerseys -- a practice that’s more customary in overseas leagues. The last time the league opened its season in Japan, in 2012, players wore patches from sponsors Boeing and online-games platform Gloops.
Now that Japan has legalized casino gambling -- but not sports betting -- the country intends to license two or three major casino resorts catering to tourists. MGM and rivals such as Wynn Resorts Ltd. and Las Vegas Sands Corp. have had a presence in Japan for years, trying to woo politicians and local partners. MGM opened an office in Osaka last month.
In addition to the jersey patches, MGM will have its marks on the official logo for the series, which also includes four exhibition games between teams from MLB and Japan’s top league. MGM also plays a prominent role in the fan festival that surrounds the games.
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