Major League Baseball and the NBA sometimes have to twist themselves into knots to explain what they want from legal US sports betting, and why they want it.
But the MLB has done a pretty big flip-flop in recent years on the need to cooperate with sports betting regulators when it comes to sharing information.
What the MLB said recently
MLB’s most recent plan of attack is to say Nevada sports betting regulation is really, really bad, a take so horrible that it has no basis in reality. Nevada has been doing this for decades, and there’s little evidence that state officials have done anything other than a superb job overseeing the industry.
But that’s not the subject of this story. We’re more concerned here with what the MLB said about “cooperation.” Here’s MLB executive Brian Seeley, in talking to Reuters:
Australia is a world benchmark for the industry, he said, because “there is the most cooperation and coordination between sports leagues, the regulator and bookmakers.”
“You can say that you care about integrity too,” Seeley said of bookmakers. “But when you turn around and oppose any requirement that you let the leagues know about integrity problems, it is hard for me to believe you.”
If you’re following along, MLB is saying YOU ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO WORK WITH THEM if you care at all about sports, betting, starving children around the world, endangered animals, etc. OK, maybe not those last two. But the point remains, MLB is painting a doomsday scenario if you don’t listen to them.
Got that? OK, hold on.
Let’s rewind a bit, to see what the MLB was telling us less than six years ago about sports betting.
Here’s Tom Ostertag, former MLB general counsel, in a deposition he gave for the first iteration of the federal sports betting case, NCAA vs. Christie, in 2012. (The state of New Jersey won the second and more-recent version of the case in the US Supreme Court.)
“We think the idea that any sportsbook can be helpful to us, again, is completely incorrect. It’s almost like saying we’ll create a problem and then we’ll tell you about it. And how does that benefit us?”
We’re not sure what we’re supposed to take away from this, as Seeley’s recent comments are a 180-degree change from Ostertag’s. Was the MLB admitting it was entirely wrong then, and it’s seen the light? Is cooperation not that important, and the MLB is just pretending it is now?
Likely, it’s the former, as the leagues have evolved their stances a lot in recent years. But still going from “LOL at cooperation with sportsbooks” to “integrity can’t happen without cooperation” is like putting a car in reverse while going 100 miles per hour.
Have fun squaring this latest bit of hypocrisy, MLB.