Major League Soccer Commish On Sports Betting: ‘Bring It Out Of The Dark Ages’

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The number of North American professional sports leagues that believe legal sports betting would be good for the US — or at least aren’t adamantly opposed to it — continues to grow. The latest: Major League Soccer.

What the MLS commish said on sports betting

MLS Commissioner Don Garber spoke at SXSW in Austin, Texas, over the weekend. That event also featured a panel just about the future of US sports betting. But Garber was asked about sports betting in a wide-ranging one-on-one chat. More from GeekWire:

“We have a project going on now to really dig in deeply and understand it. I’ll be the third commissioner (along with NBA’s Adam Silver and MLB’s Rob Manfred) in and say I’m very open to understanding how we can get more engaged in this market in a way that I think if done properly, can be regulated and managed and controlled.

I’ll join the chorus of saying it’s time to bring it out of the dark ages. We’re doing what we can to figure out how to manage that effectively.”

MLS and sports betting

MLS, of course, is a smaller league in terms of importance, behind the big four of the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball and NHL. And betting on MLS pales in comparison to the sports those leagues represent. Still, any pro sports league with a US presence advocating for regulation is an interesting development.

Betting on soccer is prevalent in Europe and is the most popular game to wager on. However, betting action on MLS overseas is much smaller than many of the major pro soccer leagues, like the English Premier League and LaLiga. MLS partnered with Sportradar to monitor game integrity as it relates to sports betting a couple of years ago.

MLS also has a deal with daily fantasy sports site DraftKings dating back to 2015.

MLS joins the party

The NBA is definitely for the legalization and regulation of sports betting — Silver has made that clear in the past.

It’s not clear anyone is quite that far along. Garber seems to be throwing Manfred in the same basket as Silver. And while Manfred has certainly been saying some good things about sports betting, it’s a little more tepid.

Still, Manfred did a series of interviews at the start of MLB’s spring training, and he answered questions about sports betting several times. Most famously, last month Manfred said his league is “reexamining” its stance on sports wagering. The mere fact that Manfred agreed to talk about the issue more than once is meaningful.

Also, both those leagues remain plaintiffs in the ongoing NJ sports betting case.

PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan also said this year that the pro golf organization has an “open mind” on sports betting.

The NFL, meanwhile, has remained publicly opposed to sports betting.