Posted on February 9, 2017 by Bryan Zarpentine
Gambling in sports is more prevalent now than at any other time, and it has people in some circles considering a move in favor of legal sports gambling. One of those people appears to be MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, who spoke about the topic Wednesday at a finance summit. Manfred indicates that he is open minded to the possibility of legalized gambling on baseball, despite a long history of baseball being opposed to gambling.
“There is this buzz out there in terms of people feeling that there may be an opportunity here for additional legalized sports betting,” Manfred said Wednesday. “We are reexamining our stance on gambling. It’s a conversation that’s ongoing with the owners.”
The commissioner believes that betting on baseball can be a type of “fan engagement” that would help to draw more fans to the game and increase baseball’s popularity among a number of demographics, particularly younger fans. Since taking over as commissioner just over two years ago, Manfred has tried to find ways to attract a younger audience. Specifically, he’s tried to increase the pace of play during games and create more action. However, making it legal for people to be on baseball could be another way to get more fans on board.
Manfred also acknowledges the fact that betting on baseball already exists, and so every it may be better for MLB to get behind it so that the league can have some semblance of control over it.
“Sports betting happens,” Manfred said. “Whether it’s legalized here or not, it’s happening out there. So I think the question for sports is really, ‘Are we better off in a world where we have a nice, strong, uniform, federal regulation of gambling that protects the integrity of sports, provides sports with the tools to ensure that there is integrity in the competition. Or are we better off closing our eyes to that and letting it go on as illegal gambling?’ And that’s a debatable point.”
On Wednesday, Manfred also mentioned NBA Commissioner David Silver, who has been a proponent of legalized sports betting. The MLB commissioner said that Silver “has framed it best” with regard to the argument in favor of legalized sports betting.
Baseball, of course, has a long and complicated history with gambling. The infamous Black Sox Scandal during the 1919 World Series is an event that is still mentioned nearly a century later after the fact. There is also the case of all-time hits leader Pete Rose, who is banned for life because he bet on baseball. Obviously, players, managers, and those connected with major league teams would be unable to bet on baseball. However, it could become more available to fans as a way to increase the excitement surrounding the game and enhance the fan experience.
There are still a number of hurdles to jump over until gambling is legalized in baseball or any other sport. However, Manfred confirmed on Wednesday that MLB is re-evaluating its position and having a conversation with team owners about the possibility of legal betting on baseball. This is an important step in the right direction and a sign that legal gambling on baseball could become a reality in the future.