In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic-shortened the Major League Baseball season from 162 games to just 60. This year, MLB is back to the full grind, an intensive schedule that almost doubles that of basketball and hockey. All those games and all those betting options make for a sports bettor’s paradise.
“While baseball hasn’t always been traditionally highest on the sports betting spectrum, it always provides one of the most interesting seasons because of its length and number of games,” according to Brendan D. Bussmann, partner with Global Market Advisors, who has extensive experience in sports-betting markets around the world.
With so many games, baseball holds a wealth of opportunities for bettors. “There always seems to be a dark horse who sometimes doesn’t emerge until halfway through the season,” Bussmann said. “Someone can always get into a slump or on to a hot streak.”
Breaking the Bank
In most MLB seasons, U.S. sports bettors wager around $40 billion on baseball. This season should easily break that mark, said Nate Johnson, product manager at sportsbook software provider PayPerHead.
Another element added back into the equation: fans, at least on a limited basis to start the season.
“Fans are the lifeblood of our game,” said Kenny Gersh, MLB executive vice president of business development. “We missed fans so much last season. Little by little, we hope the overall picture improves and we can welcome more fans during the season, under health and safety protocols.”
Fans are also a major financial resource. Put 45,000 in Citizens Bank Park, for example, and the home team (in this case, the Philadelphia Phillies) enjoys revenues from ticket sales, souvenirs, hot dogs, crab fries, Philly cheese steaks, and of course, peanuts and Cracker Jack.
Like so many other sports, baseball has developed relationships in the last two years with sportsbooks, the latest being Bally’s Corp.
“We created our Authorized Gaming Operator (AGO) program two years ago in order to develop relationships with each of the major U.S. sportsbooks,” Gersh said. Bally’s is MLB’s 14th partnership.
“The opportunity to put the Bally’s stamp on America’s national pastime provides an innovative and engaging sports betting experience.” said George Papanier, president and CEO of Bally’s.
When a sportsbook agrees to become an AGO, it gets access to marks and logos for its sports betting product as well as the ability to use official league data and the ability to work with clubs, Gersh said.
Such relationships carry a set of integrity provisions and data-sharing requirements that protect the league as the legal sports betting market grows. “It also allows us to work closely with sportsbooks to enhance their product offerings that our fans engage with,” Gersh said.
Leagues, Sportsbooks Align
DraftKings got a head start on its agreement with MLB, signing a partnership deal in 2012, six years before the legalization of sports betting. At the time, DraftKings was a leader in daily fantasy sports. Still is. The sportsbook has also partnered with the Colorado Rockies and Chicago Cubs.
“There’s more money to be made by the league and its teams through strong partnerships that increase engagement and knowledge into the fan base,” Bussmann said.
As with other sports, in-game betting has become a growing part of the business.
“Our Live+ and Premium Props platforms are perfect for baseball bettors. Live+ has game trackers and video streams. Props offer individual performance options like how many strikeouts Clayton Kershaw gets in a game,” said Johnson.
DraftKings top baseball bets include:
- Money line: who wins the game
- Run line: unique to baseball, this bet is a popular option for regular bettors (sort of like a point spread for baseball)
- Totals, or over/under bets are among the most popular wagers that sports bettors place, based on the total runs by both teams
- First player to hit a homerun
- Over/under for strikeouts by player
- Total runs in the first five innings
- Money line in the first five innings
DraftKings declined specifics, but acknowledged that baseball is historically among its top leagues for betting (football is king). The sportsbook expects pent-up demand for a full season to drive betting.
“We anticipate a significant level of engagement,” said a spokeswoman. “Collectively, we’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and the return of baseball only adds to optimism and excitement for the days ahead.”
This year, perhaps more than any in recent memory, baseball fans are glad to say, “Play ball.” For more early-season picks and predictions, visit iGamingPlayer.