MLB Spring Training Opens with Sports Betting Interest

Major League Baseball is about to be in full-force. Spring training starts soon, and fans are anticipating another exciting season. Aside from the start of the 2017-2018 season, there’s another aspect of the game that’s drumming up some excitement—sports betting.

Sports betting has been the black sheep of sports. There are only four states in the country that allow for legalized sports gambling—Montana, Oregon, Delaware and Nevada—and out of these four, only Nevada is allowed to have single-game betting. The other states have some specialized form of betting, like parlay cards, for example. The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) is the federal law that bans sports gambling in 46 states. On top of PASPA, the major professional sports leagues have been against it as well. Over the years, the conversation seems to be shifting away from blatant disregard to the notion of legalization to a more open-minded, practical tone.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver first spoke out in favor of legalized sports gambling, even going so far as to put his thoughts to paper in an op-ed in the New York Times. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has been the second commissioner to enter the ring, recently making comments on Major League Baseball’s stance on sports betting. “…I think it’s incumbent upon us to make sure we understand what the facts are, what kind of legalized gambling are you talking about, how would it be regulated, what are the threats to the integrity of the sports,” said Manfred on ESPN’s Outside The Lines.

This is one of several instances where Manfred has addressed the topic of sports gambling. For an industry that has been played down so much, Manfred’s words reflect the changing perception. He even spoke of the possibility of bringing a franchise to Las Vegas. The NHL just brought a franchise to Las Vegas, and the NFL’s Oakland Raiders tried to move there too—their move fell through. The NBA doesn’t have any plans to follow suit, but part of the NBA Summer League is held in Las Vegas. Las Vegas is the center of sports betting, so it would be a little hypocritical for the sports leagues to have teams there while they’re openly against it.

Sports gambling is a million-dollar industry, and the amount of bets being placed shows the level of involvement from fans. Manfred and Silver can appreciate the upside sports betting would bring to sports. Since they can acknowledge how often sports betting happens, they seem to prefer establishing a formal, regulated market that would keep sports gambling under control.

For anything to happen, PASPA would have to be repealed or amended to legalize sports gambling. Oklahoma sports gambling runs through legally sanctioned and regulated offshore sportsbooks because of PASPA. While PASPA’s potential repeal is in the hands of the federal government, the major professional sports leagues could have some influence over it, as they have directly contributed to blocking any type of sport betting. If Manfred keeps up this momentum, sports gambling may make its way into the limelight. The fact that he is even making comments like he is suggest that the conversation on sports gambling is indeed happening.