Major League Baseball hit for average on its stance towards sports betting in the U.S. outside Nevada. The league made its opinion on West Virginia’s Senate Bill 415 known this week, and given the climate of opposition to legalized wagers on professional and amateur sports leagues, MLB’s take was no surprise to many interested in the issue.
MLB denounced Bill 415 in a statement released Monday specifically claiming:
“Any sports betting legislation must include clear, robust, enforceable protections to mitigate any possible risks to our game. The law quickly advancing in West Virginia unfortunately falls short of meeting those critical standards. We are hopeful the legislature will complete a significant overhaul of the law and bolster protections. We would be happy to work with legislators and the Lottery Commission to improve the current language.”
The bill, introduced January 29, would effectively legalize betting on sporting events at West Virginia’s five gaming facilities while imposing a 10 percent taxation rate on gross gaming revenue. Additionally, the bill establishes a minimum age of 21 for would-be participants and a licensing structure including application fees of $250,000 and renewal fees of $100,000.
With the introduction of Bill 415, West Virginia joins a growing list of states including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Kansas and Massachusetts who’ve taken the initiative and attempted to push a pejorative towards legalized sports gambling over the past year.
MLB’s attitude is par for the course amongst other detractors including President Donald Trump. Despite his past as a casino tycoon, Trump has stood alongside America’s sports associations in support of PASPA, the federal ban on sports betting established in 1992.
The NFL, the NBA, MLB, the NHL and the NCAA have all maintained a steady record of support for the act since its inception. Aside from previously stated reasons, MLB specifically takes issue with the bill’s lack of requiring “official league real-time data” for betting outcomes and its disallowance of the league to prevent certain types of wagers.
At first glance, it seems understandable that a sport plagued by a history of gambling scandals, one involving one of its most decorated athletes in Pete Rose, would be resistant to support legalized betting. The “integrity of the game” is often trumpeted as the backbone for the reasoning against most attempts to change or impact baseball throughout its long tradition as America’s pastime.
An average cynic, however, wouldn’t have to look far beneath the surface to postulate there may be more monetary motives underlying MLB’s resistance. A surprising flip-flop by the NBA in support of legalized betting last week may point to a trend that could materialize amongst betting detractors.
While the association came out last week in support of legalized sports betting, the backing came with the caveat of a one percent “integrity fee” on every potential bet made. NBA assistant general counsel Dan Spillane signaled the intent behind the fee that likely mirrors the deep-rooted feelings of other pro sports entities in his recent interview with WV Metro News:
“The reason why sports betting can even exist is because we stage these games and deliver a high-quality product. And think it makes sense to be compensated for that, too.”
While MLB has not explicitly advocated for or against legalization in the past, Commissioner Rob Manfred addressed the issue last summer with this statement:
“If there’s going to be a change in the regulatory structure with respects to sports gambling, we needed to be in a position to meaningfully engage and shape, try to shape what the new regulatory scheme looks like.”
With quotes like these to reflect on, not to mention the fact that MLB and most other pro sports associations are readily available and accessible in the daily fantasy realm, there is plenty of reason for optimism behind the growing sports gambling movement. Furthermore, MLB’s opinion, those of the other sports leagues and even that of President Trump may not even matter in the end.
The looming Supreme Court decision of Christie vs. NCAA will no doubt set a precedent for gambling laws across the country. Should the U.S. open the way to exploring the uncharted territory of legal sports betting, it is more than reasonable to anticipate that pro and even eventually amateur sports leagues will be prepared to stake their claims.