Though legal sports betting is not yet live in Maryland, bricks-and-mortar establishments — casinos and horse racing facilities as well as Camden Yards, M&T Bank Stadium and FedEx Field — will be eligible for “Class A” sports betting licenses for retail sportsbooks. Thirty “Class B” licenses will be available for smaller bricks-and-mortar establishments, and 60 online licenses will be available as well.
In May, the Ravens announced a partnership with BetMGM. The Ravens and BetMGM “will collaborate to create cobranded promotions for Ravens fans. BetMGM branded signage will be present throughout M&T Bank Stadium, digital media and integrated social media content,” according to the press release announcing the partnership.
Ravens chief sales officer Kevin Rochlitz, who is in his 19th year with the team, recently spoke with Stan “The Fan” Charles and Gary Stein about the impact of sports betting and what it means for the Ravens. Here’s some of what he had to say. Check out the full interview at PressBoxOnline.com/video.
This has been edited for clarity and content.
PressBox: From the Ravens’ perspective, legalized sports betting seems like a sales opportunity. Would you describe it as such, or more of a sales opportunity with much, much more to it?
Kevin Rochlitz: It is a sales opportunity, but it’s really a marketing vehicle for us to connect with our fan base here locally but also around the country and around the world in some instances. The way we looked at this was this was a great opportunity to connect with some new brands. There are many people who are going to be entering the state of Maryland and participating in this space. As you know, with the legislature and the recent vote, there are many more people that are going to be participating. So it was important for us to go through this process and figure out how we were going to tackle this. We didn’t just do this like weeks ago. We’ve actually been working on this for over a year, what we could do until obviously the Maryland legislature could approve it.
PB: Teams and leagues used to shield themselves from sports gambling. Why are those barriers shut down to an extent?
KR: I’m not so sure they’re going to be shut down to an extent, though. The integrity of the game is one of the most important things to commissioner [Roger] Goodell. I think you’re going to see that as we proceed through this [with] the NFL. [There are] the restrictions on staff. We can’t go to a casino on business and gamble, and we can’t go into a sportsbook. All those things are going to stay in place. I think what you will see is the integrity is going to be upheld amongst the teams and the league, and they’re really going to be looking at the rules as we go through this process. Also, the other leagues have changed a little bit, and we were one of the late adapters in the NFL to get to this point. And as you know, many states are turning into this as the Supreme Court voted [in favor of sports betting in 2018]. So it’s been a slow-moving ship getting to this point, but it’s continuing as we go forward.
PB: At the moment, the first step will be that you can go into bricks-and-mortar casinos to bet on football games. And then the mobile devices and whether you can bet at sportsbooks at the stadium will be determined later on, correct?
KR: I don’t foresee the stadium [sportsbooks] coming in the near, near future. The mobile is going to be the next big thing and that probably will be in ’22. I know there are many companies that would like to get into the mobile situation there. That’s why we’ve spent the offseason working on a significant upgrade to our Wi-Fi system at M&T Bank Stadium. That will probably all be installed before the opener on the 19th of September. In fact, some of the lower-bowl seats have antennas in the base of the seats. We needed an upgrade. It’s a big deal for us. As you know, when you go to games and events at M&T, people get on their mobile device and they’re checking Facebook and ESPN and everything else that they do. If you can’t get Wi-Fi, you know how upset you get now when you go somewhere and they have no Wi-Fi. We spent a considerable amount of money upgrading our system there. They’re working on it right now. They’re putting in new antennas, those types of things. It’ll be a robust system that will be available to prepare for sports gaming as we know it probably moving into ’22 and ’23.
PB: Could you see the possibility of opening the stadium to fans and people who want to bet on games? You might have some fans who want to watch the game on the big screen and bet.
KR: That’s probably going to happen in time. I know this year we are going to do a watch party for our Monday night opener. We’re going to do our Miller [Lite] Countdown to Kickoff at M&T Bank Stadium, so the stadium will be open to people and people will come and watch the game on the [big screens]. You obviously won’t be able to partake in gambling at M&T Bank Stadium, but there is potential. That could happen in the near future where people want to go there. A lot of teams are doing these lounges at their stadiums where you can go gamble in them. [Potentially] that might happen in the near future at M&T Bank Stadium, but we’ll have to see. I just don’t see that in the next few years until the NFL approves that, and that’ll be an ownership decision at that point that they’ll have to go through. Knowing that there are places at M&T that we could do it, we’re just going to have to wait and see. The NFL does not move very fast on this stuff. They’re going to be very slow and make sure it’s the right decision at the right time and make sure that we get this kicked off in the right way.
PB: The old adage is, “With rights come responsibilities.” While companies and the Ravens now have the right to promote gambling and people have the right to gamble, there’s also the responsibility factor. Nobody wants to see anybody lose all their money. Is there a mechanism for education if somebody needs some help? Where can people turn?
KR: One of the things that was important to me is the league makes you do some signage for responsible gaming. But the American Gaming Association in Washington, D.C., I met with them [recently]. We’re going to run LED and put up a 1-800 number inside our stadium and radio and basically do that for people who might potentially get themselves in a little bit of trouble, that they can call a number. I wanted to take an approach that we get out [in front] of this right away and put that number up and just provide that education. … So there is going to be a lot of those opportunities in print and things that we document, there will be a number that we will put in there for help. But that’s very important to the Ravens organization, that we make sure we provide opportunities in case people get in there because it’s going to happen. It just does happen from time to time.
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox