Rush Street Interactive Signs Hometown Tennis Star James Blake

Written By George Myers on September 7, 2021 - Last Updated on December 10, 2021
Tennis Star James Blake Signs With Sportsbook RSI In Connecticut

Sports betting in Connecticut sits just around the corner.

Arriving with it will be the new face of tennis betting — homegrown star James Blake.

A native of Fairfield, Connecticut, Blake has signed with Rush Street Interactive (RSI). He will provide analysis through BetRivers’ national Bet with a Winner campaign. Blake’s 14-year pro career included 17 singles and doubles titles, and he once attained a number-four world ranking,

Rush Street Interactive is one of the nation’s most prominent sports betting companies. The agreement with Blake adds another Connecticut layer.

Recently, the Connecticut Lottery Corporation revealed that RSI would serve as its retail and online sports betting partner. Following necessary regulatory approvals on Tuesday, the reality of sports betting in Connecticut got significantly closer.

Uncertainty remains about RSI’s ability to use BetRivers branding in Connecticut. Even so, expect RSI to leverage Blake to help garner interest in its soon-to-be newest marketplace.

Local tennis great to bring ‘respected, authentic’ analysis

Blake’s relationship with Rush Street Interactive began Monday at the outset of this year’s U.S. Open.

According to the announcement, Blake’s analysis will be posted on BetRivers’ social media accounts and “additional digital and traditional media platforms.” In addition, he will be featured in promotions and company-sponsored events.

“This year’s U.S. Open will be especially exciting as I can’t wait to offer my analysis to BetRivers bettors,” said Blake in a statement.

“RSI expressed to me how important it is for them to develop honest and transparent relationships with their players and I look forward to sharing my experience to assist tennis fans in making intelligent and informed betting decisions.”

The company’s CEO, Richard Schwartz, called Blake “a respected and authentic voice in the sport of tennis,” who “shows our commitment to offer bettors the best in sports betting insights and analysis.”

“RSI is proud to partner with a tennis great, a New York Times best-selling author, and the 2008 recipient of the Arthur Ashe Humanitarian of the Year award,” noted Schwartz.

Blake contributes to the Tennis Channel and ESPN’s tennis coverage. His past analysis was seen on CNN and NBC. His memoir, Breaking Back: How I Lost Everything and Won Back My Life, resided on the NYT best-seller list.

Other athletes partnered with RSI and their Bet With a Winner campaign include: Former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerome Bettis, one-time Denver Broncos offensive lineman and ESPN analyst Mark Schlereth, and NFL Hall of Famer Mike Ditka.

Connecticut sports betting takes significant step forward

Tuesday was an important day for the future of sports betting in Connecticut.

The General Assembly’s Regulation Review Committee OK’d a swath of emergency regulations to expand gaming in the state. Among them included legalized sports betting and online casino gaming.

The regulations were approved at a pace largely motivated by the imminent arrival of the NFL’s regular season (Sept. 9) and associated public betting interest.

Gov. Ned Lamont has pointed to the start of professional football as his target date, a goal initially considered optimistic by many. Following Tuesday’s approval, this target feels more realistic.

Submitted by the Department of Consumer Protection, the regulations are meant “to create a licensing structure and implement provisions for responsible gaming … for new gaming markets in our state,” according to the department’s commissioner, Michelle Seagull.

Lamont called the regulations’ passage “a significant step forward for Connecticut and our partners in this new marketplace.”

“In working collaboratively with the Mohegan Tribe, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, and the Connecticut Lottery Corporation, Connecticut has crafted nation-leading legislation, which will position our state as a leader in this space and will provide an elevated user experience for eligible residents,” he added.

Next, the regulations require approval by the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Branding uncertainty remains for RSI

Locking in the Connecticut Lottery Corporation partnership close to the industry’s expected launch was a major win for RSI.

That much is clear.

Murkier is how the partnership will shift upon the launch of sports betting in Connecticut.

Best known for its BetRivers brand, RSI offers sportsbooks in eight states. In addition, the company uses its PlaySugarHouse brand in New Jersey.

However, Connecticut law prohibits the lottery from branding “along with an entity or brand that operates a physical casino.” The BetRivers identity is associated with casino operations in multiple states, which presents a problem in Connecticut.

In a competitive market, that creates challenges with brand recognition. Fortunately, the branding does not prohibit RSI from utilizing Blake.

DraftKings and FanDuel in Connecticut, which have partnered with the state’s Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes, respectively, will compete with RSI.

“We expect to be very competitive on a market-share basis with FanDuel and DraftKings, the partners of both of the tribal nations,” Lottery Chairman Rob Simmelkjaer said earlier this month.

“Some of the advantages we have we think are the retail footprint, and we believe our lottery retail network can also be very helpful in terms of helping us bring in users and customers.”

Photo by AP | Henny Ray Abrams
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George Myers

George Myers is a writer with extensive experience in both news and sports reporting. He has primarily covered baseball and football, along with the intersection of sports and lawmaking.

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