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Is YES Network’s deal with SimpleBet ‘spring training’ for gambling?

Boston Celtics v Brooklyn Nets - Game Two Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

YES Network on Tuesday announced that it has reached a deal with Simplebet, a sports gambling company, that isn’t quite gambling but looks like spring training for the real thing.

As Mike Mazzeo of PlayNY.com reports, “this represents ‘the first-ever, real-time, in-game, single-screen watch and play experience’ offered. And, down the line, it could conceivably provide a roadmap to a real-money betting version.”

The agreement permits fans using the YES App at home or at a Nets or Yankees game to predict various outcomes and come away not with cash but merchandise and other non-cash rewards. Per PlayNY.com....

Fans can play against friends and strangers for those prizes, which includes gift cards, team merchandise and even in-person experiences. The game, according to the release, aims to “encourage longer watch times and deeper fan engagement.”

Some of the Nets/Yankees predictions offered include:

—How many points will a player score this quarter?

—Which team will score next?

—What will the result of this possession be?

—What will be the specific result of an at-bat?

—Will the next batter get on-base?

Will the next pitch be a ball, strike or in-play?

The program began Tuesday night when the Nets played the Pistons on YES.

“This is the first inning of a convergence between media and gaming, and we’re thrilled to be at the bleeding-edge with a partner like the YES Network,” Chris Bevilacqua, Co-Founder and CEO of Simplebet, said in release. “Micro-market technology is reimagining the fan experience and drives longer watch times, which in turn is beneficial for operators and media partners alike.”

“Through our new partnership with Simplebet, our viewers will now have the opportunity to play along in real time with the exciting action on the screen through a free, state-of-the-art predictor game powered by industry-leading technology,” added John Litner, CEO of YES.

Because SimpleBet is not among the companies granted New York state licenses to offer sports gambling services, their “Pick-N-Play” can’t take or disburse cash, but as Mazzeo writes, it is one step away and could be spring training for the real thing.

Certainly, you could see many of these ideas translating from free-to-play to pay-to-play. There have been latency issues with second-screen live betting. And media rights fees would presumably have to be worked out. But this experience seems like something that bettors find themselves using down the line once stakeholders iron out the logistics.

It’s also not outside the realm of possibility that SimpleBet could partner with a company that does have a sports book license and use the technology to eventually transition to pay-to-play. The Nets and Yankees both have deals with FanDuel. There’s also some movement on a proposal to permit betting kiosks and/or lounges at sports venues like Barclays Center and Yankee Stadium. Under the current law, gamblers can place bets on games and various elements of game action from the state’s eight active sports books or online.