MLB Not Backing Down On Sports Betting Integrity Demands

MLB Not Backing Down On Sports Betting Integrity Demands

Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred has been making his stance on sports betting clear since months before it was even federally legalized. While Manfred is aware of the positives and officially supports wagering on MLB he believes, like other American pro sports league commissioners, that he should get a cut.

Manfred Still Wants His Cut

His position was reiterated in a recent interview featured on New York sports radio station WFAN as Manfred first got into the inevitability of sports betting, the need for regulation and the positives of it.

“We understand that it's here to stay ... We have to expend time, effort, resources to make sure that the increased legalized gambling doesn't become a threat to the integrity of our game. We also recognize that gambling can be a source of fan engagement. We want our fans engaged with our sport in every possible way and we will take advantage of this new landscape to try to make people even more interested in Major League Baseball.”

It’s not earth-shattering to learn that MLB is looking to “take advantage of the new landscape” as many think the league’s push to secure exclusive data rights as well as “integrity fees” to ensure the protection of their so-called “intellectual property” is just another cash-grab.

League Touts Ability to Enforce Regulation

In response to such allegations, Manfred recalled the great expense that goes into producing professional sporting events, while of course leaving out mention of the incredibly profitable returns the leagues gain from merchandise, tickets, etc.

“The fact of the matter is, the sports leagues spend literally billions of dollars to stage these games. I do not think it's unreasonable to suggest that people who are free riding on our product ... should have to compensate us.”

Manfred followed that with a long explanation of not only why integrity is important (a statement that literally no one who cares about sports would disagree with) but why MLB is the best, most-prepared body to enforce regulations and thus should be compensated for doing so.

“The deepest fear is that somehow people involved in betting try to influence the outcome of the game on the field. That's the deepest fear. … Integrity monitoring is a really expensive undertaking. It's very sophisticated. It involves the analysis of massive amounts of data in order to detect patterns in the betting that can be of concern. I do not believe that it is appropriate for Major League Baseball ... to rely on a bunch of state regulators to ensure the integrity of our sport. ... Quite frankly, I don't believe they'll be as good at it as we will be.”

One might find that last sentence to be highly subjective and even objectionable when glancing at a long history of scandal and how Major League Baseball has handled and “prevented” it. This, after all, is the same league that had to ban its all-time leading hitter, Pete Rose, for life over gambling.

Furthermore, one would think MLB would be more concerned with definitively and finally answering the question of whether the likes of Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Alex Rodriguez should be allowed in the Hall Of Fame before it starts preaching about its proficiency in enforcing integrity.

League Doesn’t Like Nevada Model

These most recent comments were par for the course with MLB’s thoughts conveyed earlier this month by MLB investigation leader Bryan Seeley. Seeley, a former federal corruption prosecutor, said that allowing states to copy Nevada’s model would “make no sense” that Nevada’s regulations should be implemented elsewhere and suggested that states should be made to “adopt regulations that fit 2018.”

That take is essentially contradictory to the same judiciary logic that drew the Supreme Court to its decision regarding the legality of sports betting. It was unfair that other states were allowed to provide it, while some left out. That’s why it’s now an individual state’s issue and not to be determined by a large monolithic governing body.

So as MLB and other sports leagues continue their floundering attempts at taking more money from states, just as they do in many instances when, say, a team needs a new state-of-the-art billion-dollar stadium, the arguments aren’t changing.

What is changing undoubtedly is the national attitude towards sports betting and the amount of opposition to the leagues’ apparently presumed rights to compensation, data and intellectual property whether legal framework actually establishes any of those things or not.