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Volume 26 No. 232
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MLB Partnering On New Quick-Pick Sports Lottery Product

MLB will lend both its blessing and its league and team logos to a new sports lottery product that could be offered in any of 33 U.S states and territories that operate the ubiquitous bouncing ping-pong ball payout games and do not specifically prohibit their extension to sports. Developed and managed by Louisville-based EquiLottery Games, "Baseball Bucks" will generate random $5 quick-pick tickets tied to 10 MLB games each day, paying off entrants who have the winning team in seven or more games. Prizes will escalate for those with more winners, ranging from 8.5-1 for seven winners to 1,024-1 for all 10. EquiLottery and MLB are in talks with 15 states to offer the game. Though they anticipate that MLB's support of the product will help move approvals along, rollout of new lottery games typically takes six to 18 months. They said it is likely that at least one state will offer the game in time for next season's openers. MLB will be paid through a revenue share, based on tickets purchased. MLB Exec VP/Gaming & New Business Ventures Kenny Gersh said, "It's a lottery game where we substitute the baseball games for the ping-pong balls. It's a great engagement tool, because if you have the winners of 10 baseball games, you're going to be much more interested in watching to see who wins the games."

MORE CULTURALLY ACCEPTED NOW: The game is structured around a randomly-selected lottery ticket, meaning there is debate about whether the long-standing federal prohibition of sports betting would have precluded games such as this and others that EquiLottery hopes to develop with the other major sports leagues. However, there is little chance any state would have been willing to consider such a game when sports betting was illegal. Though 45 states and DC offer lotteries, 13 specifically exclude games tied to sports results. EquiLottery's previous product was a lottery tied to horse racing results, which it rolled out as a 90-day pilot program in Kentucky earlier this year. It had sports games on the drawing board, but would not have pitched them before a Supreme Court ruling cleared the way for sports betting last year. "Legally, you could have done it, but politically and emotionally, probably not," said EquiLottery Games CEO Brad Cummings. "The winds have shifted since PASPA was overturned. It's really opened up."

NICE PARTNER TO START WITH: A tie to MLB is the ideal place to start, Cummings said, because of its volume -- there are 161 dates on the schedule with 10 or more games. Also, most MLB clubs already have state lotteries as sponsors. "It's been night and day since (MLB) joined the conversation (with state lottery operators)," Cummings said. "When you come to the table with a partner like that, it changes the perception of the game and the company."

EXPOSING FANS TO MORE GAMES: Along with increasing engagement, MLB believes the lottery game will expose more consumers to its free-to-play games. Lottery game tickets will include a QR code that takes players to the free-to-play web site, where they can track their results. Gersh said, "The difference is that the free to play game is going to be meant to show what kind of betting real-money sports books can offer. That's not what this is. But somebody who may not be a sports bettor but likes to play the lottery may want to watch some games to see if he won."