MGM, NHL Strike Data Deal With Possible State Gambling Law Impact

Daily Tax Report: State provides authoritative coverage of state and local tax developments across the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, tracking legislative and regulatory updates,...

By Alex Ebert

The casino industry is cheering the second professional sports data deal signed by MGM Resorts International as proof that states shouldn’t force casinos to pay “integrity fees” or buy league data as sports betting legislation sweeps across the country.

The NHL announced Oct. 29 that MGM will get access to “previously unseen” proprietary league data that could be used to unlock new “fan engagement and betting opportunities.” MGM will also get to advertise to NHL fans and host promotional events around the Stanley Cup Playoffs and the NHL All-Star Game, in addition to other NHL-season landmarks.

The deal, which follows a July pact reached by the National Basketball Association and MGM, comes despite a push by pro sports leagues for state legislation that would require casinos to pay for league data or provide leagues an “integrity fee,” which is money meant to bolster leagues’ investigations of sports betting issues.

“The deal demonstrates that here’s no need for statutory requirements for integrity fees or purchases of gaming data,” Sara Slane, American Gaming Association senior vice president of public affairs, told Bloomberg Tax Oct. 29. “The leagues are tripping over dollars to pick up pennies. They’re going to get more money in TV rights and sponsorship the sooner that we have alignment to push the sports betting industry forward.”

Asked if deals like this could push out smaller gaming companies, Slane said no, because unlike state statutes the private contracts don’t give the leagues “monopoly power” to set prices on game data and can be more flexible.

Monetizing Data

Leagues and player associations have asserted their rights to game information and have strategized about ways to turn player or game data into currency.

A week after the U.S. Supreme Court lifted the federal ban on state sports betting in Murphy v. NCAA, National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell issued a statement saying Congress should pass a law allowing sports leagues to “protect our content and intellectual property from those who attempt to steal or misuse it.”

At a July state tax conference in Cleveland, attorneys representing the leagues advocated payment for league data, which would give the gaming industry official statistics and compensate leagues for using their intellectual property. The National Football League Players Association said that it is also working to market player biometric data for the sports betting industry.

Since the Murphy decision, Delaware, New Jersey, Mississippi, and West Virginia have legalized sports betting and are taking bets. New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island have legalized sports betting but haven’t started taking bets.

No state has yet adopted an integrity or data fee. But bills not passed in Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, and New York could have required gaming operators to purchase odds-generating data or official results from leagues or approved entities, according to the AGA.

The NHL, NFL, and MGM didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. The NFL Players Association declined to comment.

The tug-of-war over data and fees isn’t over.

In Kentucky, 14 lobbyists representing pro sports leagues have registered to influence legislators crafting a sports betting bill, even though the state doesn’t have a pro football, baseball, or basketball franchise.

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