Hot dog in one hand, smartphone in the other: betting in the ballpark is now a reality.
The Philadelphia Phillies and Pittsburgh Pirates will be the first Major League Baseball teams to offer fans legal betting, on mobile devices during a game.
A win for PA online betting
There are only three other locations in which mobile sports betting is legal:
- New Jersey
- West Virginia
However, none of these states have major league teams. That means the Phillies or Pirates will accept the first in-stadium bet at an MLB game in the US.
Online betting apps in the stadium won’t happen immediately in PA, but it will happen soon. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) is planning to test the first online sportsbook in the next several weeks.
MLB ready when PA online launches
Rob Manfred, the MLB commissioner, believes that in-play betting at a stadium is just the next natural next step for online gaming. He also believes this type of betting will not affect game outcomes.
“We’re going to recognize that the mobile is going on but build in rules around it.” And in some ways, mobile helps you, right? If you have mobile betting available, it reduces the pressure you might otherwise get to have kiosks or betting parlors or whatever. If somebody’s doing it on their phone, you don’t know if they’re looking at their Facebook page or making a bet, and that may be a good thing.”
Manfred was quick to point out MLB’s sports betting policies govern commercial activities with the intent of maintaining the integrity of the game.
How will in-stadium betting impact PA sports betting?
How popular it will be to bet online while at the game has yet to be seen.
Sportradar VP Neale Deeley is not sure. Just because live online betting at the arena is available, it may not be used as often as some might think. Deeley said,
“The vast majority of it (mobile sports betting) is done on the couch at home. We call it ‘mobile,’ but it’s actually static to where it’s being done.”
Richard Carter, CEO of SBTech, points out that the number of fans attending a game compared to those watching it at home or other venues is “relatively inconsequential.”
Furthermore, Carter is not convinced that many attendees will opt for mobile wagering. His observations at games are that he wants the social interaction of going to the betting terminal with friends.
Carter is a big Liverpool fan in the English Premier League. Of course, there are not currently any betting kiosks in US sports stadiums which prevents that kind of engagement.
In-stadium betting already happening
Illegal offshore sportsbooks are not uncommon. Some sports fans may already have the experience of live in-stadium betting, making the legal option a less groundbreaking event.
Chris Grove, managing director at Eilers & Krejcik Gaming, said, “The reality is that mobile sports betting has been happening in MLB stadiums for some two decades at this point.”
“I think where things really start to change is not with legalization itself, but when teams and leagues begin integrating betting into the fan experience through sponsorships, promotions, venue installations, and prize-based betting. Until then, professional sports will continue to be adjacent to betting rather than actually involved.”
And it looks like that integration is at least in the planning stages.
Kenny Gersh, MLB’s EVP for gaming and new business ventures, spoke about the complexity of the current baseball betting system. “Right now, the way betting on baseball has been traditionally done has a fairly high learning curve for a casual fan to figure out how they would bet on baseball.”
Gersh wants to make betting on games easier for fans and more engaging.
“We are actually working internally to create some free-to-play games. We’re not ready to totally publicly announce that we’re launching something, but probably next year at the latest, we’ll have a free-to-play game. We want to make casual, engaging games that our fans can play and have the potential to earn prizes without actually betting.”
Regardless of whether fans use the service while attending a game or not, it has the potential to enhance the experience of going out the old ball game.