In a period of less than 12 months, legalized sports betting has become more common around the United States. A ruling from the Supreme Court last May overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992, which banned sports betting under most circumstances (exempting Nevada, where sports books are legal). That decision effectively paved the way for individual states to legalize sports betting, leading to several that have already put their laws into effect and others that are considering similar measures.
Last week, MLB issued a request to gambling regulators that betting on spring training games be prohibited, essentially arguing that the conditions of spring training make its games more susceptible to fixing. Reaction among the states was mixed. Pennsylvania, for instance, requested that its operators refrain from offering wagers on spring training games until it could review MLB’s request, but Nevada said it would continue to allow sportsbooks to accept such bets. More from the AP:
MLB’s deputy general counsel Bryan Seeley argued the risk is “particularly acute” during spring training because many players are not on the roster and don’t make much money.
“Spring Training games provide greater opportunity for the misuse of inside information,” he wrote in his request. “The outcome of games sometimes depends heavily on non-public managerial decisions that are made in advance and are independent of Club or player performance, such as how many innings a pitcher will throw or in which inning Minor League players will replace Major League players.”
The Nevada Gaming Control Board responded the following day, saying sportsbooks across the state have controls in place to minimize concerns about players potentially fixing bets and haven’t had any problems with spring training.
Board chairwoman Sandra Morgan said Nevada’s sportsbooks have served as the “alarm bell” when something was amiss with sporting events and related wagers.
Despite its fraught history with gambling and initial support for a ban on sports betting, MLB seemed to warm to the idea of legal sports betting after the Supreme Court’s ruling. By the end of November, the league had signed a deal with MGM Resorts International to become the sport’s first official gaming partner, sharing advanced stats exclusively with the gambling giant and working on a plan to protect the integrity of the game both on and off the field.
When it comes to spring training, some sportsbook operators do not seem to believe that the games attract enough interest from betters to warrant concerns that they could be fixed. Perhaps concerns over spring training will fade for MLB as legalized sports betting becomes more established in various states, but for now it represents at least one area of uncertainty for the league despite other signs that it is increasingly embracing gambling.