MLB Commissioner Maintains Stance For More Federal Oversight On Sports Betting

Written By Grant Lucas on March 8, 2019 - Last Updated on September 10, 2020
MLB Sports Betting

Major League Baseball won’t change its stance on legalized sports betting in America.

The once-great league has firmly established itself as an over-controlling dad who refuses to adapt and perpetuates his traditionalist ideals because “that’s the way it’s always been” and came from “a simpler time” that “made the world a greater place.”

Indeed, MLB, that old curmudgeon, continues to sit in its rocking chair on the front porch when it’s not roaming the neighborhood ruining the fun times of youngsters.

Months after the MLB, along with other major leagues in the US, failed in lobbying states to include integrity fees in their regulations, the league has long stood behind the federal government stepping in to craft over-arching laws and guidelines for legalized sports betting.

Speaking at Boston College’s Chief Executives Club on Wednesday, Rob Manfred said as much, noting that the industry would be better served with one set of rules, established at the federal level, for each state to adopt.

“I’m a realist,” the MLB commissioner said to a group of reporters after the event. “Would I prefer to have a single integrated structure from the federal government? Yes, because it would be easier for us to deal with one set of rules.”

MLB coming around on sports betting

Since the US Supreme Court repealed PASPA last spring, seven states across the country have rolled out regulated sports betting. Another two have partial laws in place and away passage and launch. Including other states with proposed legislation, more than half of America is buying into legal wagering.

And MLB wants the federal government to oversee it all. The same league that fought tooth and nail to prevent legalized sports betting to begin with has, at the very least, begun understanding the positives of legal wagering.

“We’re realists,” Manfred said, according to a report from State House News Service (paywall). “Legalized sports betting is gonna be part of our culture going forward. We think it can be a great source of fan engagement,” Manfred said. “We do have views on exactly what the legislation should look like, but in general we see it as a positive.”

Again, though, Manfred prefers regulations begin and end at the federal level. Of course, the federal government is trying to flex its muscles in that sense, such as when senators Orrin Hatch and Chuck Schumer introduced bills in December. And, of course, there was the recent revised opinion of the Wire Act that has not sat well with states.

MLB wants federal involvement, but…

Certainly, lawmakers will continue to draft bills, make proposals and lobby for federal oversight of legal sports betting. But even the MLB acknowledges that it might be too late.

From Manfred:

“But the reality is, given the course of the Supreme Court litigation, the federal government wasn’t going to get there in time, and the states were going to proceed.”

While it sounds like the league might back off its stance for federal inclusion, it hasn’t. Not really. If anything, Manfred hinted that his league has been challenged to a dare. And the MLB accepted.

Again, from Manfred.

“We’ll figure out a way to manage it.”

Just accept the fate and move along

In a way, it’s somewhat respectable to see the MLB not caving, to see the league persist and fight for its beliefs.

Then again, its old-man stubbornness only gets exacerbated as the MLB continues to joust for any type of control in legal wagering.

It has long lobbied for a cut of the action in the form of integrity fees. It has long fought to have a say in which events and markets regulated sportsbooks can or cannot offer, going so far as to request that states not offer bets on spring training. Even recently, MLB partnered with data provider Sportradar to have control over which information is shared with media and bookmakers.

Less than a year after SCOTUS cleared the way for state-sanctioned sports betting, the MLB, along with the other major sports leagues, has come to understand the upside of the industry.

Manfred frequently cited how regulated wagering “could create additional passion” among fans.

Perhaps, though, the MLB could catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

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Grant Lucas

Grant Lucas is a longtime sports writer who has covered the high school, collegiate and professional levels. A graduate of Linfield College in McMinnville, Grant has covered games and written features and columns surrounding prep sports, Linfield and Oregon State athletics, the Portland Trail Blazers and golf.

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