As the Premier Lacrosse League looks to move forward amid the coronavirus pandemic, the league is introducing sports betting for the first time.
In May, the PLL said that it would shift its 2020 season to a two-week quarantined and fanless tournament called the PLL Championship Series. At the time of the announcement, PLL COO Andrew Sinnenberg told FOS that it was already expecting increased fan and viewer interest as a result of not only the season’s “do-or-die” format, but also because the league will be operating in a “specific timeframe right now where fans are yearning for live sports content.” The addition of betting could amplify that anticipated increase even more.
A host of live in-game betting markets on the PLL will now be available for bettors. The league hopes offering markets will not only enhance the in-game fan experience but also expand the sport of lacrosse’s global reach and audience, roping in less traditional fans through gambling opportunities.
As part of the sports betting push, the league has signed a partnership with Genius Sports Group, which also serves as the integrity partner to the English Premier League, PGA and LPGA Tours. Through its Betgenius division, Genius Sports uses technology to turn real-time data points and streaming into live betting products for licensed sportsbooks in regulated markets. The NBA and NCAA also use its technology.
“We’re thrilled to announce that we’ve worked with the appropriate governing bodies and officials such that sports fans will be able to legally place bets on PLL games beginning in 2020 with more to come,” PLL co-founder and Atlas Lacrosse Club midfielder Paul Rabil told Front Office Sports. “Betting is an integral part of the fan experience and vested interest in pro sports. It’s become more sophisticated, and the tech built by the [American gaming operators] makes it easier and more attractive for fans to play.”
Without the ticket sales and on-site merchandise revenue streams the league relied heavily on in its inaugural season, finding new revenue streams in this new climate was crucial. The addition of PLL markets to the sports betting world will come with added financial benefits for the league beyond the hope of attracting a hungry audience of bettors with little live content in today’s climate.
When states started moving toward legalizing sports gambling in the U.S. in 2018 after the Supreme Court struck down the federal ban, the American Gaming Association estimated that the four major sports leagues would earn a collective $4.2 billion from widely available legal sports betting. The NFL was projected to benefit most, potentially seeing $2.3 billion in revenue from legal sports betting. In comparison, sports betting was still estimated to drive as much as $216 million in annual revenues for the smallest benefactor, the NHL.
“Leagues benefit greatly from this form of engagement, and we expect to see a significant bump in PLL consumption as a result,” Rabil said.
The real-time opportunity also comes at a crucial time for sportsbook operators across the country after a massive shortfall was seen in March handles, and a steady decline continued in April despite the NFL draft.
With sports betting legal in Colorado as of May 1, the activity is now legal in 21 states in the U.S. as well as Washington, D.C.
The PLL also brought on a pair of gaming executives as advisors. Sara Slane, a former senior vice president at the AGA where she oversaw the effort to legalize sports betting in America and founder of the Slane Advisory global gaming strategies group, and A.G. Burnett, a gaming attorney with McDonald Carano, will both help the league properly regulate PLL wagering.
Wagering will begin with the two-part Championship Series, scheduled to be held from July 25 – August 9 on NBC and NBC Sports in a still to-be-decided market. The first week will feature a fourteen game, group-play format with all seven teams to determine seeding for the following week’s single-elimination tournament for 20 total games. The tournament winner will be crowned the 2020 PLL Champion.
The partnership will extend to future PLL events as well, the league announced.