LAS VEGAS – Major League Baseball is doubling down on its “integrity” strategy as Spring Training gets underway, asking the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) to pull the plug on all wagers being offered on its preseason contests. The NGCB, however, declined to stop state sportsbooks from accepting bets on Spring Training games.

The MLB based its request, per ESPN’s David Purnam, on concerns over integrity risks, that Spring Training games “are exhibition contests in which the primary focus…is to prepare for the coming season rather than to win games or perform at maximum effort on every single play.” Further, the league uses this premise to claim that Spring Training games “are not conducive to betting.”

Of course, Nevada books have been posting MLB Spring Training odds for decades, and they’ve determined a couple of things in that time.

One, these games, despite the MLB’s assertions, are indeed conducive to betting. That’s because people bet on them. Sportsbooks are not in the habit of posting odds that nobody cares about. These are businesses, and every line put on the boards is a reflection of research and analysis to produce that line.

Two, there is no heightened risk to the game’s integrity because the players who would be most susceptible to throwing a Spring Training game are the ones who most need to perform at a high level. After all, they’re the ones using Spring Training as a showcase of their skills in order to jump to the next level. Given that the minimum salary in the MLB is $535,000 (while the average salary is $4.38 million), it seems unlikely that a minor league player “trying out” for the Big Leagues would torpedo his chances for a $500 payout.

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Minimum Payouts Mean Minimum Risk

The MLB, like most other professional leagues, seems to be laboring under the delusion that sports betting – in this case, Spring Training sports betting – is ripe for manipulation. In addition to publicly calling into question the moral character of all of its athletes, the league’s hype of “integrity” concerns at every turn has some in Sin City stifling their guffaws. Jeff Sherman, VP of risk management at the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas, didn’t even bother to do that.

“The naivete out there to think you walk up and bet whatever you want on these preseason games – we write a few hundred dollars,” said Sherman. “[Our limits are] so small that even if you went up and down the Strip, you’re not going to get much money to influence anything like that.”

If that wasn’t enough of a reality check for Major League Baseball, the NGCB wrote a more response to the league’s request:

“Based on our history and experience in regulating sports wagering, we are not inclined to prohibit our licensed sports books from taking wagers on MLB Spring Training games.”

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