MLB’s dark secret is slowly but surely coming into view. There’s money to be made in gambling, and Bally Sports is their anointed partner.
In March, MLB and Bally Sports entered into a multi-year agreement that designated Bally’s as an Authorized Gaming Operator of Major League Baseball (“MLB”).
In a reported $85 million naming rights deal between Sinclair Broadcast Group (who owns the regional FOX Sports networks) and casino operator Bally’s, 19 regional FOX Sports networks will be rebranded to Bally Sports effective March 31,
Per the news release, The agreement provides Bally’s with immediate access to official MLB league and team marks, logos, and data, which it intends to incorporate across its growing portfolio of sports betting products. Bally’s will also include these assets as part of innovative content that the Company is creating for MLB fans, which will be integrated into live MLB game coverage across 19 regional sports networks that account for more than half of the U.S. MLB teams. (my emphasis)
Now, you’ll know immediately if you are watching a game broadcast by one of these 19 regional sports networks by the “B” that appears adjacent to score updates that roll across the bottom of your screen.
Not to worry, though, because if you miss it in that location, there’s an even bigger “B” that’s subliminally placed in the upper right corner of your screen. Remember that word, subliminally.
Curious, I tuned into several regional telecasts last night. The Detroit game with the White Sox was available with feeds coming from each of their regional sports networks, and immediately I could tell these were both newborn Bally Sports children.
That’s because Bally Sports informed me every minute or so with blurbs across the bottom of my screen that they are “The Heart Of The Fan.” As a baseball fan, it then follows that Bally Sports is in charge of my heart and mostly responsible for keeping me alive.
Moreover, I also know this to be true because Bally Sports tells me I’m “Blessed” in this Promotional Video.
Different name, same favorite teams.
— Bally Sports (@BallySports) March 31, 2021
MLB: Bally Sports Is Everywhere
The splash by Bally Sports is loud and huge. In Kansas City, for instance, the theme for fans tuning in to watch the Royals on Opening Day this year was not the new baseball season – it was the new network (watch the promo video):
MLB: Look What The Cat Dragged In
While MLB has given its biggest prize away to Bally Sports, there’s still plenty of room for other gambling interests to take a swing at the plate.
Most fans are already familiar with Draft Kings Sportsbook, and while they are limited to “legalized” betting in only a few states where there’s a will, there’s a way to “play” (interesting choice of words) with them. Mostly active in football and basketball, soon MLB will become a major focus for this enterprise.
Another and older venture is FanDuel Sportsbook, who are also now pushing heavy on their MLB Platform.
Here’s another one. During last night’s MLB Detroit Tigers telecast, this commercial aired from BetMGM – “The King Of Sportsbooks.” The ad features what they call a Parlay Boost, which is another way of inviting you to increase your risk, but you probably already knew that once you read the word “Boost”:
MLB: It’s Not About Today – It’s About Tomorrow
Now, let’s be clear about something. None of this is about the practice of gambling, or for that matter, people who gamble.
Gambling goes back to the earliest days of civilization. It’s mentioned several times in the Bible, and individuals will vary in their assessment regarding its moral stature in our society today.
People gambled on Major League Baseball long before MLB put its stamp of approval on the “sport” of gambling on its games, and Lord knows the Pete Rose story stands alone as an inditement by MLB and the chief signal; the Times They Are ‘A-Changin.’
The problem as I see it is the impact of this current onslaught that’s only going to intensify on non-gamblers, and especially young fans, and it’s not just the in-your-face stuff like the ads viewed beforehand.
Instead, it’s about the subliminal “B” stuck in the upper corner of your screen and the insidious motto of Bally Sports telling us they are the heart of the fan.
Aw…that has nothing to with me, we say. No one is going to trick me or sublimate me. Well, think again because it’s done every day by advertisers, especially on the silver screen.
Think, for example, about that five-second blurb between pitches, so common these days, with no voiceover – just an image of an ice-cold can of Bud or a McDonald’s quarter-pounder. It’s not that we immediately jump from our chair to reach for a cold one in the refrigerator – it’s that the image is processed and remains in our brain – subconsciously.
Now, that’s what I’d call in-your-face subliminal messaging in advertising, but how about this one?
The Subliminal Marlboro Experiment That Worked
Cigarette ads have long been banned on television, and we may not see the famous “Marlboro Man” on TV anymore – tourism to Flavor Country has declined sharply in the past 20 years – but Marlboro is still among the world’s best-known cigarette brands, a coveted position Marlboro sought to retain through the use of subliminal ads.
According to a wordstream.com article on subliminal advertising, “To circumvent this inconvenient restriction, the marketing team at Marlboro came up with a dastardly ingenious idea; they would use subliminal visual messaging to convey the Marlboro brand without using the typographical logo of the company itself.
Marlboro accomplished this by using a barcode-style design that, at the high speeds at which F1 cars travel around the track, was almost as recognizable as the logo itself.” (look for yourself)
MLB: This Is Not The Way To Grow The Game
By now, we are all familiar with MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred’s chant advertising his desire to “grow the game.”
What he means, of course, is he wants to draw new fans to the sport of MLB from a previously untapped supply, including groups like women, minorities, and most especially the fans of the future – the young.
A worthy endeavor indeed and critical to the economic vitality of MLB and its teams.
Now, to reiterate, gamblers are gamblers, and they will always be gamblers, so let’s leave that alone. This is about new fans coming into the game, watching a telecast for the first time with newfound friends sharing their interest in baseball.
For one thing, that person, upon seeing the Bally Sports logo and motto prominently displayed, is not likely to know this is something new with MLB, assuming that gambling has always been an acceptable part of the game – and you know – The Heart Of The Fan.
What of an eight-year-old who regularly watches games with his Dad and the risks associated with his or her constant exposure to gambling. What’s a good father supposed to do when an ad comes on – start a wrestling match to divert his child’s attention…?
MLB: Regulate, Regulate, Regulate
$85 million, the value of the contract recently signed between MLB and Bally Sports, is chump money for MLB, a $10 billion a year company.
Bally Sports, like any corporation, wants to see those 19 regional sports networks become 30, the full complement of MLB teams.
As such, MLB has the leverage over Bally Sports to oversee what these new networks are doing with the power afforded to them via the current contract.
Based on what’s been discussed here, and even in my nieve state, I find it hard to believe that MLB is comfortable with the route Bally Sports takes with the 19 regional networks under contract.
And if MLB is comfortable, well, then that’s a whole new story to be written at another time…
Here’s What Readers Are Saying…
Mike Harrington It’s pretty gaudy when you literally allow most of the RSN’s in the game to be a vehicle for a Casino brand.