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sports betting, namely that 1992’s Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act should be overturned by the court or repealed by the legislature.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 2019

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” 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…”

Ironically enough, ever since the repeal of PASPA in 2018, the MLB has been eager to pursue sports betting partnerships in a number of different ways. The MLB now has multi-year deals with MGM Resorts, DraftKings, and FanDuel with more deals in the near future. Those deals give those sportsbooks the ability to use MLB trademarks as well as official league data for their live betting features. The MLB has also partnered with Sportradar in order for them to collect and distribute data to legal sportsbooks as well. The MLB stands to make money selling it’s own data and stands to get higher ratings with its trademarks being used to advertise to sports bettors. It’s a win win for the league so it’s no wonder why they’ve begun to embrace sports betting.

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 clear that the league is in favor of legislation that gives individual states the option to license legal sports betting businesses. From there, you can keep expecting 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 in states that are considering signing a sports betting bill into law 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 a 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 the government to shape the structure and implementation of legalized sports betting. Since PASPA was repealed in 2018, the MLB has tried to lobby every state that is considering to legalize sports betting by telling lawmakers that they should have a mandate in their bill for sportsbooks to use official league data. They have also vouched that sportsbooks should pay an integrity fee to the league for the increased costs they will incur for protecting the integrity of the game. The MLB is no longer making that argument but is instead calling it a flat out royalty. So far, only Tennessee and Illinois have provisions in their law that directly benefit the MLB, but that has not stopped the league from continuously trying to advocate for themselves in the legal process.

MLB’s Thoughts On Legal Sports Betting FAQs

Will The MLB Allow Individual Teams To Partner With Sportsbooks?

Yes, and in some cases, they really don’t have a choice. For example, the sports betting laws in Washington D.C. allow sportsbooks to be open in the District’s professional sports stadium. That means if Nationals park wanted to open up a legal sportsbook then they can. In March of 2019, MGM Resorts became the official sponsor of the Boston Red Sox. MGM is a sports betting operator and has signs promoting their business at Fenway Park.

Will The MLB Stop Player Prop Bets?

While there is no guarantee that they won’t, it is unlikely that they will stop these types of bets. State’s like Iowa prohibits player prop bets on their own collegiate athletes, but all is fair game when it comes to professional athletes. MLB players are paid handsomely, so the possibility for corruption is lower with their players than college players. The MLB hasn’t given any indication that they will pursue this issue at all.

Will The MLB Try And Lobby In States That Don’t Have An MLB Team?

More than likely yes. Tennessee was one of the only states that mandated a fee to pro sports leagues and Tennessee doesn’t even have a pro baseball team. Just because a state doesn’t have a home MLB team doesn’t mean there isn’t a great deal of MLB betting going on. The MLB recognizes that and will try to pursue extra money in any way possible. 

How Much Money is Bet on the MLB Every Year?

The MLB is a major draw for sports betting. In 2019, it was reported that the total amount of money that was wagered on the MLB season was around $1.1 billion. This number only included traceable betting handles from regulated sites and does not include the potential from international betting sites. This number is expected to only increase as more states regulate sports betting and the sports betting market grows bigger every year.