Pac-12 Hires Commissioner From Sports Betting Operator MGM Resorts

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The new commissioner of the Pac-12 Conference is coming over from the gambling sector.

Last week, the Pac-12 announced that George Kliavkoff, the soon-to-be former president of entertainment and sports for MGM Resorts International, would be hired to the post. It’s worth noting that Kliavkoff isn’t the man leading MGM’s online gambling division, BetMGM.

“I am thrilled to be the Pac-12 Commissioner,” Kliavkoff said in a statement. “This is a challenging time for intercollegiate athletics, but I believe these challenges also create significant opportunities. I loved being a student-athlete, and I’m passionate about the doors that college sports and higher education open for young women and men. My job at the Pac-12 will be to help manage the balance between continued academic excellence, student-athlete well-being and an even higher level of athletic achievement.”

The University of Colorado-Boulder is in the Pac-12. The Centennial State kicked off sports betting on May 1, 2020. Through March, the books have taken more than $2 billion in wagers, generating about $130 million in revenue from gamblers.

“At each step of his career, George has navigated complex, quickly changing environments and has been a successful consensus builder,” Oregon president Michael H. Schill, chair of the five-member search committee, said in a statement. “George is a visionary leader with an extraordinary background as a pioneering sports, entertainment and digital media executive, and we are delighted and honored that he has agreed to become our next Pac-12 Commissioner.”

Kliavkoff will ‘tackle’ sports betting

Sports betting is expected to be something Kliavkoff will “tackle” in his new role, though the press release from the Pac-12 didn’t provide information on how the conference’s relationship with sportsbooks will evolve under Kliavkoff. Currently, Colorado is the only state with a Pac-12 full member school that has allowed BetMGM to launch its sports betting product. In addition, the University of Colorado has a deal with sports betting operator PointsBet via the Buffalos’ media arm, Learfield IMG College.

Unsurprisingly, Kliavkoff has been bullish on legal and regulated sports betting in his role as an MGM executive. At MGM, Kliavkoff “oversaw” the casino operator’s “sponsorship spend with professional and college sports leagues, conferences—including the Pac-12 Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments and the Pac-12 Football Championship Game—and teams.”

Kliavkoff’s hiring is similar to the University of North Carolina’s recent decision to bring a current DraftKings executive on as member of its board of trustees, raising some conflict of interest concerns among other members on the board.

He received a unanimous vote of all Pac-12 presidents and chancellors. His five-year contract begins July 1.

It’s unclear if Kliavkoff will retain any affiliation or role with MGM after joining the Pac-12 as commissioner. The release implied that he will also leave or has already left his position on the board of MGM after taking his new gig with the conference.

Brian served as a senior reporter and online content manager for Card Player Magazine for nearly a decade before joining USBets in October 2018. He is currently focused on legal and regulated sports betting and online gaming. He's an avid jiu-jitsu practitioner in his free time.

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