Major League Soccer (MLS) is open to the prospect of working with gambling companies in the wake of legal sports betting in America.
On Sunday, before the match between D.C. United and Atlanta United, MLS Commissioner Don Garber told reporters that he is ready to embrace legal sports betting.
Garber told reporters: “We’re in the process of getting close to a major league-wide sponsorship with a respected gaming company, and I’m very supportive of that.”
Garber said he believes that legal sports betting will help attract a much bigger audience and ultimately help MLS with fan engagement.
Garber’s willingness to work alongside gambling companies appears to stem from how popular betting on soccer in England is. Several teams in the English Premier League (EPL) are sponsored by gambling companies.
In July 2018, a report from The Guardian found that nine out of 20 EPL teams wear gambling company logos on their kit. The report also found that 17 out of 24 teams in the championship are sponsored by gambling companies.
“I’ve been to a lot of games in England,” Garber told reporters. “I’ve never really objected to the fact that somebody would come into the owner’s box and take a bet on a game.
“If people are going to do it, you might as well manage it, organize it. You might as well generate tax revenue for it and find ways the league could use it as a marketing tool to have people engage more with our players and our clubs.
Garber went onto say: “At the end of the day, the most important thing for Major League Soccer as it relates to the potential for legalized sports betting is not necessarily revenue-driven. It’s how do we engage more and more fans to participate, to get closer to our teams, to participate more deeply in our games.”
According to reports, naming rights to the Red Bull Arena in New Jersey, home to the New York Red Bulls, could be purchased by a gambling company.
In November, Marc de Gradpre, Red Bulls general manager told Sports Business Journal: “If we can find a partner or partners that can help us enhance our fan experience through gambling, we’re willing to have a conversation.”
On Sunday Garber said: “If there’s a possibility with a gaming company naming one of our stadiums, I’m all for it.
“It’s an evolving process. I think we have to see how it plays out state-by-state, but once the government says it’s okay, we’re certainly not going to do anything other than support it.”