Vote Against California Sports Betting A ‘Missed Opportunity,’ MLB Official Says

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Vote Against California Sports Betting A ‘Missed Opportunity,’ MLB Official Says
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If voters reject California sports betting in November, that would be a “missed opportunity” to expand legal, regulated wagering into a new market, a Major League Baseball official says.

Leonardo Villalobos, MLB’s counsel for sports betting and compliance, said he is hopeful more states will enter the legal sports betting market over the next few years. Currently, sports betting is legal and live in 31 states and Washington, D.C.

Villalobos participated in a panel discussion on sports betting Wednesday at the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas. The event is being held at the Venetian hotel-casino on the Las Vegas Strip.

Sports Betting Expansion Tied To Integrity

Professional sports leagues such as MLB and the NFL have expressed concern about illegal, unregulated sports betting and are working with the American Gaming Association to ensure integrity in the jurisdictions where wagering is legal. 

The leagues view expansion into regulated markets as one factor in safeguarding integrity in sports betting. It is illegal in the three most populated states, California, Texas and Florida.

“I hope by this time next year there will be more states online,” Villalobos said. 

Another panel participant, Jonathan Nabavi, the NFL’s vice president of public policy and government affairs, said the pro football league feels “more comfortable” when sports betting occurs in regulated markets.

Wagering Props Likely To Fail In California

On Nov. 8, California voters will decide on two competing ballot questions to legalize sports betting in the state.

However, a recent statewide survey conducted by the University of California, Berkeley indicates voters will shoot down both items.

One ballot question, Proposition 26, would legalize in-person wagering at 66 tribal casinos and four horse tracks, but not on mobile apps. It is supported by the state’s largest tribes.

The other ballot question, Proposition 27, is being backed by national online bookmakers such as BetMGM, FanDuel and DraftKings Sportsbook. Prop 27 would legalize the use of mobile apps for sports betting.

Earlier this year, Major League Baseball endorsed the integrity provisions in Prop 27, noting it would require sportsbook operators to notify leagues of suspicious wagering activity.

The league has five teams in California: the San Diego Padres, Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels, Oakland A’s and San Francisco Giants.

Gambling Kept At Arm’s Length  

Though professional leagues support legal sports betting, they continue to maintain an arm’s length approach to gambling.

Beginning in 2023, for instance, MLB will begin allowing teams to place corporate patches on uniforms and batting helmets but will prohibit logos associated with sports betting companies, Villalobos said.

For its part, the NFL prohibits its employees from participating in any form of gambling, include casino table games, Nabavi said.

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Larry Henry

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