After nearly a century of zero-tolerance policies that treated gambling as a mortal threat, U.S. sports leagues are rapidly cutting deals with companies involved in sports betting.
To varying degrees, the leagues are partnering — openly and in secret — with oddsmakers, betting prognosticators and data providers that make sports wagering possible in the digital age, according to interviews with a range of sports gambling officials and experts.
The deals lay the groundwork for the NFL, the NBA, the NHL and Major League Baseball to profit if sports betting is legalized in the United States, as many experts predict. But for now, the deals have drawn the leagues into a shadowy, unregulated world that includes some companies that have been accused of operating illegal sports betting enterprises.
The NFL in April became a part owner of newly formed Sportradar US, the subsidiary of a Swiss company that provides real-time statistics, scores and odds to bookmakers, including, according to gambling industry sources, multiple offshore sportsbooks that offer illegal betting in the U.S.
Last July, the NBA, through its ownership stake in FanDuel, became part owner of numberFire, a New York tech company that offers sophisticated analysis for daily fantasy and sports wagering, including betting recommendations on the league’s own games.
Shortly after the World Series in November, Major League Baseball signed a deal with a London-based company, Sport Integrity Monitor, to monitor betting lines and identify suspicious betting activity that might indicate fixed games. SportIM’s parent company sets odds and provides software for legal bookmakers in Europe and Asia.
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