MLB’s Thoughts On Legal Sports Betting

For the past few years, Major League Baseball has been growing gradually more vocal in its support for a new national model on legal sports betting, namely that 1992’s Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act should be overturned by the court or repealed by the legislature. Everyone at LegalSportsBetting.com has been saying for years that it should be legal, and now major league baseball thinks sports betting should be legal as well.

Though many will see the irony of the MLB taking such a position given how they banned the greatest hitter in their history from the Hall of Fame because he bet on some ball games as a manager (and never threw a single one because Charlie Hustle sprinted to first base on walks), the easing up of gambling taboos among baseball purists has been a long time coming. The Black Sox scandal was 100 years ago, for crying out loud. Modern protections can prevent that kind of thing these days, which kind of makes it a moot point anyway. Still, the league pushes “integrity of the game” harder than any other, so this flip-flop was not altogether expected.

MLB Now Supports Legal Sports Betting In 2017

A few years ago, Bud Selig finally retired as commissioner of Major League Baseball. Since then, Rob Manfred, who took over the post in 2015, has been reasonably open and frank in his assertion of the merits of legalized sports gambling. Back then, he told ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” (http://www.espn.com/chalk/story/_/id/12286521/mlb-commissioner-rob-manfred-says-legalized-sports-betting-needs-fresh-consideration) that society “has changed its presence” over the issue and that he felt it important to have a discussion with the team owners “about what [MLB’s] institutional policy will be.” Clearly, Manfred saw the writing on the wall and decided that it was in baseball’s best interest to get behind the movement.

What Made the MLB Embrace Legal Sports Betting Again?

There is no consensus on any single catalyst that drove Major League Baseball back into the loving arms of sports betting, but it probably has something to do with money. Manfred, in the same 2015 interview cited above, cryptically stated that the MLB will “take a look at its relationships with legalized gambling, whether it’s a sponsorship or whatever…”

That sponsorship bit is the key. See, the MLB has some of the most outrageous contracts in all of pro sports, and the game’s popularity (in terms of TV ratings and live attendance tallies) isn’t keeping pace with those inflated payrolls or the stadium leases on which most teams still owe a lot of money. A sponsorship system between Major League Baseball and US casinos/international sportsbooks could be a financial boon for America’s favorite pastime. And it’d be really good for baseball, too.

What Kinds of Legal Sports Betting Does Major League Baseball support?

Manfred and the rest of the MLB’s leadership have been quiet about the specifics they think will benefit baseball most, but it’s a good bet that the league is in favor of legislation that gives individual states the option to license legal sports betting businesses. From there, you should probably expect the MLB to push for corporate sponsorships and against whatever laws may exist on the books potentially barring such relationships under various “conflict of interest” mandates and the like. Since sports leagues in general have to do the whole public service PR thing, there is probably an “MLB Gambling Addiction Hotline” or some such similar charity in the works, too.

As for what specific bet types the game will want to promote, that remains to be seen. It is not out of the realm of possibility that, in order to preempt certain kinds of sportsbook fraud, the kinds of bets offered could diverge somewhat from what we’re used to with the overseas books. Maybe certain types of prop bets or futures would be disallowed, especially ones that could tarnish the public image of the league. Ironically, prop bets are said to have originated with wagers on pitchers’ balls/strikes game totals. This might be something the MLB will want to avoid going forward, as the potential for easy corruption by the primary individual party is quite high. Needless to say, it would be interesting to see a professional sports league have an active say in the types of bets that bookmakers can legally offer.

Legal Sports Betting Means Regulated Sports Betting

Hopefully, legal sports betting legislation will not include any outlandish prohibitions or limits and just open the standard gambling menu to the average Joe who’d rather not send his money out across the ocean to make a few small baseball bets here and there. But, like other major US sports leagues, Major League Baseball is in a unique position to help put its fingerprints on any draft resolution that comes before Congress. Indeed, Manfred has insisted that, should PASPA be repealed, the MLB must “be in a position to meaningfully engage and… try to shape what the new regulatory scheme looks like.”

Without doubt, when it comes to legal sports betting, professional leagues like Major League Baseball have the unique opportunity to lobby for special rules that could make them a tremendous amount of money in the future. So far, the MLB is also the only league that’s openly stated a preference for working with government to shape the structure and implementation of legalized sports betting. I’d like to think they won’t screw it up by delivering an overly-restricted, watered-down product that nobody wants.