Team owner Leonsis open to sports betting, but focused on wins

(This Nov. 15 story corrects entity investing in DraftKings and Sportradar to Revolution Growth)

By Hilary Russ

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – For Ted Leonsis, seeing his basketball and ice hockey teams win is far better than any revenue that could come from legalized sports wagering.

“Winning a Stanley Cup, winning an NBA championship, is much more important than getting a piece of the handle,” he told Reuters in an interview on Thursday, referring to the total pot of wagers placed in a local market on sporting events.

Leagues, teams and players are considering whether and how to claim their piece of the emerging sports betting market in the wake of a May U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allows states to legalize, regulate and tax the activity.

Several partnerships between leagues and companies have sprung up in recent weeks.

Leonsis, chief executive and majority owner of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, said his venture capital firm Revolution Growth has invested in fantasy sports provider DraftKings Inc and data company Sportradar AG. MSE owns Capital One Arena in downtown Washington, home to several of MSE’s professional teams, including the Capitals, winners of the National Hockey League’s 2018 Stanley Cup.

MSE also owns the National Basketball Association’s Wizards team, Women’s National Basketball Association’s Mystics team, and other assets.

The company may start charging fans for game data, Leonsis suggested. “Why are we giving all of this information for free?”

Leonsis said he would not want to be seen as interfering with coaching decisions by controlling betting odds and spreads.

“I don’t ever, ever want somebody coming up to me and saying, ‘You rested this player for the playoffs and the coach pulled the starters and you didn’t cover the line,’” he told Reuters after a sports-betting conference co-sponsored by Sportradar.

“That’s why you don’t want to touch the money,” he said. “But I could see us partnering with a DraftKings, or an MGM, with a FanDuel. They’ll have the book, they’ll stand behind the money, and we would activate it and promote it.”

Casino operator MGM Resorts International has partnered with the NBA and NHL as an official sports betting partner. The NHL has partnered with fantasy sports provider and bookmaker FanDuel Group, a unit of Paddy Power Betfair PLC, which has also struck a deal with an NHL team, the New Jersey Devils.

“We want to put a lot of chips on a lot of tables because we don’t know what the final answer is,” Leonsis added. “And this pie, as it grows, it’s big enough to generate a lot of revenues for a lot of companies.”

Reporting by Hilary Russ; Additional reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles; Editing by Richard Chang

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