Voila_Capture959If you want to look at the non-cynical, non-blogger-being-an-asshole side of the Sixers-Devils-Party Poker sponsorship deal, it’s this: An American sports team partnering with a gambling website is sort of uncharted territory, and, as more gambling restrictions topple, a partnership with a big one is a good thing for all involved. I can’t argue that the Sixers making a lot of money is a bad thing, because it’s not. And although I don’t particularly like seeing Allen Iverson stand next to fucking Ken Daneyko, I’ve got to give Joshua Harris credit for thinking outside-the-box. And the way in which they set this up – panicking fans about what the announcement would be* – was nothing short of genius. Hell, they got John Smallwood to basically regurgitate the press release in the Daily News:

“Tying up with an organization like this will help us do a good job. We have a tradition of teaming up with sports with leading sports franchises in Europe, but this is the first time in the United States,so there is a lot for us to learn.”

But Europe has a much more liberal view of betting than here in the USA. So partypoker teaming up with soccer powerhouses like Manchester United, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich isn’t nearly as debatable as it partnering with the Sixers and Devils.

“So this doesn’t seem like we’re breaking any big taboos, [Dexers CEO Scot O’Neil said]. I think for us the most important thing is being with a partner that can engage our fans in a smart way, someone who understands that for our fans who do play poker and those who are inclined for gaming that when they come to a concert , a Sixers or Devils game, they’ll be treated as a Royal Flush.”

Again, the merits of that argument can be debated, but as long as this is a legal product, there is little doubt that as a business product, it has the potential to be huge for the ownership of the Sixers and Devils, headed by Josh Harris, and partypoker.

If you’re wondering why newspapers lose money, I’d present sending a columnist to North Jersey to give Party Poker more publicity as exhibit 7,604.

Smallwood mentions Man U, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich as positive examples of the partnership. But here’s why this sort of thing is a much bigger deal in soccer: there are no salary caps. These massive corporate sponsorships are a big deal in soccer because teams can spend more. It’s what allows Real Madrid to pay Tottenham $123 million for the right to sign Gareth Bale. American sports don’t work like that (baseball, with no true cap, would be the closest– and that’s why the Phillies TV deal was a big deal). The NBA, specifically, is more restrictive. So while it is by no means a bad thing that the Devils used the Sixers to finalize the deal with Party Poker, and that the Sixers will have more money, all it really means is that Harris just got a lot richer and that you’ll see some poker ads around the arena… which only apply to Sixers fans living in New Jersey.

I’m just amazed that there was a press conference for this, and even more amazed that people showed up to cover it. Watch as the ex-athletes try to understand business in this video. Darryl Dawkins talking about big-time corporate sponsorships is just delicious.

*I think they 100% knew what they were doing.