Tom Mayenknecht: The business of sports

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It’s been another good week for the sports betting industry. Just five years into the legalization of single-event sports betting in the U.S. and only nine years removed from having all five major professional sports leagues in North America vehemently opposed to gambling, the Stanley Cup champion is the Vegas Golden Knights. The Las Vegas Raiders are in the NFL, as is the National Lacrosse League. Soon, Major League Baseball in the form of the Oakland Athletics will be moving to Nevada.

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Meanwhile, the Columbus Blue Jackets of the NHL this week became the latest to announce plans to develop an in-venue betting lounge at Nationwide Arena. And the NFL this week confirmed the timeline for its first-ever casino licensing deal that was first agreed to in November of 2021. The NFL-themed slot machines licensed to Aristocrat Gaming — and featuring the logos of all 32 teams — will make their debut this September.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Angels are in an unusual place at the MLB trade deadline: In a bull market, within striking distance of a wild-card berth and committed to going for it with Shohei Ohtani while they have him (and fellow superstar Mike Trout). Taking Ohtani off the trading block this week has already affected the dynamic around the trade deadline. The question is for how long will the Angels and their fans be in post-season contention under hugely unpopular owner Arte Moreno, the first Mexican-American owner of a major league club in the U.S.?

Yet the biggest bulls-of-the-Week have been Jaylen Brown of the Boston Celtics of the NBA and Justin Herbert of the Los Angeles Chargers of the NFL. Brown now carries the biggest contract value in the history of the game; a supermax contract extension of $304 million US over five years ($60.8 million per year). Herbert is the highest-paid player in the NFL, at least for this week. His five-year, $262.5-million deal ($52.5 million per year) is more than the last two incumbents in this space — Jalen Hurts of the Philadelphia Eagles and Lamar Jackson of the Baltimore Ravens — but is certain to be outmatched by Joe Burrow when he and the Cincinnati Bengals finally agree to terms.

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It was a loss for the allure of money and seemingly a win for history, tradition and the status of playing in one of the best leagues in the world. But just because Kylian Mbappe has said no to a ridiculous $776-million salary offer from Al-Hilal of the Saudi Arabian league — one that would also pay Paris St-Germain a record transfer fee of $332 million — doesn’t mean money will lose out over the long-term. It’s true that the 24-year-old Mbappe has his eyes fixed on Real Madrid of the Spanish Primera Liga. Yet make no mistake: Middle Eastern financial clout has become the biggest disruptor in the business of sport, particularly in golf and soccer. Even in a week in which Major League Soccer was celebrating Lionel Messi in his early days with Inter-Miami CF and former NFL MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers was leaving more than $30 million behind so that his New York Jets could bring in some more receiver targets for his arm, Saudi Arabia’s bold strategy to reshape its place in global sport will put considerable pressure on salary models in every league in the world.

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Marketing communications executive and sport business commentator Tom Mayenknecht — a co-founder of what was TEAM 1040/TSN 1040 in Vancouver — provides a behind-the-scenes look at the sport business stories that matter most to fans. Follow Mayenknecht at:

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