MLB on legal sports gambling: 'Our most important priority is protecting the integrity of our games'
No other professional sports league’s relationship to gambling is quite the same as Major League Baseball’s. It’s the league from which Pete Rose is banned because of gambling but it’s also the league that was an investor in DraftKings until recently.
As such, some extra eyes were looking at Major League Baseball, seeing how it would react, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling Monday that has cleared the way for states to make their own rules about sports gambling.
What did MLB say?
MLB’s take was two-fold — the league, like many others, obviously sees the boon ahead but wants to remind you how much it cares about the integrity of the game. Here’s the league’s full statement:
“Today’s decision by the United States Supreme Court will have profound effects on Major League Baseball. As each state considers whether to allow sports betting, we will continue to seek the proper protections for our sport, in partnership with other professional sports. Our most important priority is protecting the integrity of our games. We will continue to support legislation that creates air-tight coordination and partnerships between the state, the casino operators and the governing bodies in sports toward that goal.”
The “integrity of the game” is probably the right way to play this from a PR standpoint. Much better than just releasing a GIF of Scrooge McDuck jumping into his money pool — which is how some people in the sports gambling industry feel about Monday’s news.
Baseball is one of the sports that would stand to benefit from increased interest as gambling becomes legal in more states. Just forget the money for a second, more people will watch the games and be engaged when you include gambling incentives. Just ask Mark Cuban.
So what about Pete Rose?
Rose remains the elephant in the room. His presence makes everything trickier for MLB. It can’t fully embrace gambling while one of its greatest (and most polarizing) players is banned from the sport because of gambling. While fans betting on games is completely different from what Rose did, some fans won’t grasp that nuance.
Rose’s case was re-examined a few years ago and his ban remained in place. And until he’s allowed back into MLB he can’t even be considered by Hall of Fame voters. There’s nothing in the Supreme Court ruling or MLB’s statement that seems to indicate anything will change for Rose.
What do players think?
The MLB Players Association was quick with a statement of its own once the news broke. Players across all sports had previously lobbied for a “seat at the table” if and when sports gambling gets legalized in more states.
How pro athletes get involved in this process might be one of the interesting parts of the coming gambling revolution. The player’s unions have been quite proactive about seeing a part of the payday that they know is coming. But we know sportsbooks aren’t necessarily a business prone to revenue-sharing, so it will most certainly be a sticking point.
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