When Don Larson pitched the only perfect game in World Series history in 1956, a large sign over Yankee Stadium’s center-field bleachers read, “NO BETTING.” It had been there for years, next to a sign warning fans that interfering with a ball in play could get them arrested.
Thirty-four years later, George Steinbrenner lost control of the Yankees for a time because he paid a Bronx gambler $40,000 to dig up dirt on Dave Winfield.
“He did something to harm baseball and he has to pay the price,” said baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent at the time. “He knew, or at least should have known, that if the payment was exposed, it would bring disrepute to him and therefore to baseball.”
First pitch of Don Larsen’s perfect game during the 1956 World Series pic.twitter.com/7yoPEt4a85
— Baseball In Pics (@baseballinpix) September 13, 2021
Funny how the years — and a 2018 Supreme Court ruling — can change perspectives so radically. Now, the Yankees are among the many pro sports teams across the country not only embracing sports gambling, but looking to cash in on it directly.
Yankee Stadium looking to add a sportsbook
The franchise has interest in building some kind of sportsbook at its Bronx home, team President Randy Levine said in an appearance on a New York politics podcast Tuesday.
“I hope so,” Levine told PoliticsNY. “The legislation, the way I read it, is questionable as to whether that’s permissible at this point. But I think as online sports betting gets rolled out, that’s the next logical step going forward. It has to be balanced with the casinos that are opening, with mobile sports betting, but I think people are at the game, they’re on their phones, and they’d like a presence also with a sportsbook.”
We were joined by @RandyLevine1, @Yankees president and #sportsbetting Power Player, to discuss mobile sports betting in #NewYork, why baseball lends itself to wagering, and the future of the industry (an in-person sportsbook at Yankee Stadium, perhaps?). https://t.co/kMiqrm5a0w
— PoliticsNY (@PoliticsNYnews) February 15, 2022
A Yankee Stadium sportsbook would certainly fit with trends elsewhere. The Washington Nationals already have opened a sportsbook attached to their stadium in the Navy Yards neighborhood south of the Capitol. The United Center in Chicago, home of the Bulls and Blackhawks, has announced plans to partner with FanDuel to build a sportsbook there.
A New York State Senate Committee voted 7-0 this week to advance a bill that would legalize sports-betting kiosks at pro sports venues. It’s possible that by the opening of the 2023 baseball season, Yankee Stadium will be among the New York pro sports sites to have some sort of in-person wagering available at games.
The betting action is online
One question that pops up: Why? If you’ve been to your local mall lately, you realize many Americans are no longer conducting as many retail transactions in person.
New York has allowed brick-and-mortar sportsbooks to take wagers for 2 ½ years, but it wasn’t until online sports betting launched Jan. 8 that things took off. In its first month, mobile sports gambling in New York produced $1.62 billion in betting volume, dwarfing the $15 million handle the four upstate casinos tallied from sports betting over that time.
Clearly, gambling is going online the way everything else in the world is. So, why are the Yankees looking to add an in-stadium wagering experience?
The answer seems to boil down to one very popular term these days: fan engagement. Essentially, the Yankees want their customers to spend as much of their time as possible thinking about and engaging with their product. It would be easy to spend a lazy afternoon sitting in the left-field bleachers barely watching the game while you bet on and monitor games from across the country on your phone. An in-person sportsbook draws in fans who might not be otherwise invested.
The best part for the Yankees isn’t the tiny percentage of revenue they might share from losing bets, but the fact that fans would find another way to engage in — and consume — their product. Whether they do so online or in person doesn’t matter. It’s all about keeping the Yankees on people’s minds as much as possible.
“It’s quintessential fan engagement,” Levine said. “I think baseball lends itself really unlike any other sport to mobile sports betting. You can bet on what’s the next pitch: Is it a fastball? A curveball? How fast is it going to be? Is it going to be inside? Outside? Will the batter hit a single, a home run, or strike out? Will it go to right field? Left field? There are endless possibilities for somebody to be engaged.”
Levine even took a shot at doing some prospective partners’ bidding by complaining about New York’s 51% tax rate on gross sports betting revenue, the highest such rate in the nation. Sounds like a guy who works for a business that’s ready to engage in sports gambling as soon as it’s cleared to do so.