Major League Baseball (MLB) took a giant stride forward in its outreach to Latin American countries by signing Betcris, the sportsbook based out of Costa Rica, as its official wagering partner in that market.
The overturning of the federal regulation – Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992 – in 2018 seems to have been the catalyst for these entities to collaborate.
The Importance of the MLB-Betcris Strategic Partnership
In the bigger picture of the overall sports arena this deal may seem normal because it is not the first time such an agreement has been reached: a number of other leagues already are collaborating with sportsbooks. But for MLB this is a significant step forward as it caters to a very important market segment – Latin America.
Latin America is a big market for MLB for a glaringly obvious reason – almost 25% of its player base is from countries from that part of the world, mostly Venezuela, the Dominican Republic and Curacao.
What’s in it for Betcris?
The terms of the deal allow Betcris to use official MLB material, from the logo to official league-related data to player profiles and other related material across not just its website but also all its betting outlets. In return, Betcris will find itself being promoted at all key MLB events, including its post-season games, in all the Latin American countries where it is a licensed operator.
The importance of the deal is apparent from the statement by JD Duarte, CEO of Betcris, “This partnership will strengthen Betcris’ position in the gaming industry by allowing us to cover all the action in the field, and it could not come at a better time… We share a vision with MLB to deliver fun and exciting content to our audiences, and that starts with the 2020 season.”
As part of the agreement Betcris will develop, among other things, a mobile app that is free-to-play and is to be made available for anyone from the countries where Betcris has a presence.
What the Deal Means for MLB
Evidence suggests that sports and gambling partnerships seem to work very well together. How well it will work out for Betcris remains to be seen.
While the deal is great news for the legions of loyal MLB fans and it is the first of its kind that MLB has signed with a sportsbook to cater to the Latin American market, it is not the only deal that MLB has in place with a mobile application for sports betting or other related entities.
Fact is that MLB has 7 such collaborations and partnerships in place currently with Bet365, BetMGM, FOX Bet, FanDuel, Intralot, DraftKings, and the latest with theScore, the mobile app. The undertaking with theScore has in fact seen bets already being placed through the app in New Jersey, with Indiana and Colorado likely to follow.
MLB has done its due diligence thoroughly before signing up with Betcris, one must say. Discussions went on between the 2 entities for over 2 years. MLB spoke to regulators – local as well as international – to gather more data during this period. Importantly, it also tried opening an account with Betcris from the US, something it was unable to do given that the country was on the sportsbook’s restricted list.
The Executive Vice President of MLB for gaming and new business, Kenny Gersh, stated recently that the organization had been looking long and hard for the right fit when it came to partnering to be able to offer the best to their ‘most loyal’ fans.
In a statement, he said, “Betcris has taken great strides in recent years to listen to their users and continually offer great services, and we believe their experience will only further elevate the engagement opportunities for our Latin American fans.”
So Who Does Betcris Favor?
According to Betcris, when the season was set to start, there were 2 teams that stood out and ahead of the pack in the leaderboard for the 60-game season: Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees. The Dodgers were the pre-season favorites at +333, while the Yankees came a narrow second at +355.
The other teams all stood far behind these 2. The only other team with single-digit odds at that time was Houston Astros at +945. What was surprising was that these odds matched what sports books in America were offering at that time:
- William Hill: +400 Dodgers, +400 Yankees and +600 Astros
- DraftKings: +375 Dodgers, +400 Yankees and +850 Astros
- FanDuel: +380 Dodgers, +400 Yankees and +800 Astros
MLB and Betcris: Natural Partners or Strange Bedfellows?
The fact that MLB has signed up with Betcris begs asking the question – will these 2 be the perfect natural partners or will they just be 2 strange bedfellows in an uneasy relationship?
For the longest period of time, MLB had been actively against sports betting in any form, illegal or even legal. That stance has seemed to have fallen off since the lifting of the PASPA in 2018. Today it is actually lobbying for establishment of sports betting avenues in some of the states.
From the point of view of Betcris too, this may seem an unlikely agreement that it got itself into. The company is licensed by the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) and caters to countries mostly in Latin America. It was active in some way in the US till 2007, when it withdrew, thanks to the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) in 2006.
Even today, Betcris doesn’t have a US license; in fact you will find the USA in its list of restricted countries. So whether Betcris will now be actually granted a US license or will continue to cater to the Latin American market only is still to be seen.
Things haven’t exactly been rosy either between the US Government and Betcris. Prosecutors from the US Attorney’s office stated in 2013 that Betcris was in fact part of a network of overseas sportsbooks that accepted wagers run by an illegal Florida-based operation, something that Betcris CEO Duarte has repeatedly denied. Duarte does still hope to be a licensed operator in the US.