Major League Baseball and the Seattle Mariners are making the case that they should receive a cut of every bet made on MLB games.

  • WA HB 1975, a Washington State sports betting bill, made it through the Commerce and Gaming Committee but lost momentum after it was referred to appropriations.
  • Only two states that have legalized sports betting have included a mandate for sportsbooks to use official league data.
  • The MLB argued that the league should get a 0.25 cent royalty on WA sports betting activity that involves the MLB. That’s 25 cents for every $100 bet.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – In the Washington State Gambling Commission’s most recent public hearing, representatives of the agency sat down with representatives of the MLB and the Seattle Mariners to hear their pitch on what should be included in the next WA sports betting bills.

During the meeting last week, the MLB argued that the state’s gaming commission and the professional sports leagues in the state should act as partners. However, two requests were made by the league that may invoke some later questions.

The most controversial of these requests was their claim to royalties, previously referred to as “integrity fees.”

“If someone bets $100 on a baseball game, we think we should get a quarter,” said Marquest Meeks, senior counsel for sports betting and investigations of the MLB. “The royalty is rooted in the fact that you can’t have bets on baseball without baseball.”

Since the repeal of PASPA in 2018, there have been 17 states to legalize sports betting. However, none of them have agreed to pay royalty fees to any professional sports leagues.

The second request that may raise the eyebrows of WA lawmakers is the urge to allow the MLB to ban certain types of wagers on games.

“There are certain types of bets that for each sports league we’re going to have a greater risk of corruption. The example we use a lot is whether the first pitch of the game is going to be a ball or a strike. That’s a discrete event that a single person can control and manipulate, and we think it’s better to prohibit bets on those types of events,” said Meeks.

Bud Sizemore, chair of the Washing State Gaming Commission, raised concerns over this appeal.

“This one I have a little difficulty with…it sounds like you want to be both a regulator and an operator, and that might be a little awkward in implementation,” said Sizemore.

Defining the role of each party will be an ongoing topic heading into next year’s legislative session.

During the 2019 legislative session, three sports betting bills were introduced. WA HB 1975 would have limited sports wagering only to the confines of tribal gaming facilities. WA HB 1992 would have legalized sports gambling at tribal casinos and commercial gaming venues. WA SB 5965 was simply a place-holder bill for sports betting in the state Senate. None of these proposed pieces of legislation had provisions set up for mobile sports betting.

Getting any bill passed in next year’s session will be all the more difficult because the Washington State legislative session in even-numbered years only lasts 60 days as opposed to 105 days in odd-numbered years.

The Washington State Gaming Commission is positioning itself to be the regulator of sports betting if it is legalized next year. They are also trying to get a head start on the issue now in order to be better prepared for any bills introduced in 2020. The next meeting for the Commission will be November 14.

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