Major League Baseball owners have cut a deal with a casino giant to provide free broadcasts of all minor league games this season — a bid to lure more viewers to the sport as rampant cord-cutting continues to shrink its audience, The Post has learned.
MLB sold the broadcasts rights to all 120 minor league teams — from the Class A Savannah Sand Gnats to the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes — to casino operator Bally’s Corp., which will offer the free streams on its Bally Live app, according to two sources.
Last season, fans who wanted to catch a glimpse of rising stars like Yankees shortstop Anthony Volpe or Mets catcher Francisco Alvarez had to pay a $29.99-a-year premium to watch them on MLB’s At Bat Live app.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred pitched the deal — for an undisclosed amount – as a way to increase the reach of the minor league broadcasts, according to a presentation shared with MLB owners.
Bally’s — which operates 17 casinos including the Tropicana in Las Vegas, along with a live-betting online site — has 500,000 monthly retail customers and 750,000 monthly online players. By comparison, MLB’s At Bat app had about 40,000 subscribers who paid the annual fee last year, a source said.
The deal provides “distribution opportunities across retail footprints, linear channels and digital products, all with added fan engagement opportunities via unmatched “gamification,” according to the MLB presentation.
Among the “gamifications” will be free contests like “Baseball Bingo,” which will allow fans to win Bally’s Rewards points. MLB’s app ran similar contests on its site last year.
According to the presentation shared with MLB owners, Bally subscribers will be able to redeem the Rewards points and possibly place bets on the Bally Live app, including on MLB games, a source told The Post.
However, Bally’s will not allow any wagering on the minor league games, sources said.
Manfred and Bally’s declined comment.
The free minor league games on the Bally Live App will launch April 15. There will be no blackouts for home games, sources said.
The deal comes as Diamond Sports, the regional sports network that owns the rights to broadcast 14 MLB teams, filed for bankruptcy this month, as The Post reported.
Bally’s pays an annual fee for the naming rights to the Diamond Sports RSNs. Diamond could try to resell those rights in bankruptcy, sources said.
The explosion of legalized sports betting throughout the country has seemingly assuaged MLB owners’ fears of partnering with a casino company — considering baseball’s infamous history with gambling fiascos such as the Black Sox scandal and all-time hits leader Pete Rose’s lifetime ban for betting on baseball games.
The league is even considering moving the Oakland A’s to Las Vegas.
“This is a way to get better market share in sports betting besides offering promotions,” said Bill Pascrell III, a gaming lobbyist and partner at the Princeton Public Affairs Group.
Pascrell acknowledged there will be more exposure to gambling by those watching the minor league games on the Bally app, but said advertising for sites like DraftKings and FanDuel is already prevalent at big league events.
“When you go into any major professional sports venue you see sports betting everywhere,” he said.
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