Legal Sports Report

MLB Commish On NJ Sports Betting: Wants ‘To Shape What The New Regulatory Scheme Looks Like’

MLB sports betting
Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said his league has an eye on the New Jersey sports betting case, and is preparing for a world in which MLB and the other pro leagues lose.

These appear to be the first comments from any of the leagues in the wake of the news that the US Supreme Court would hear NJ’s case in its ongoing quest to legalize sports betting. MLB — along with the NBA, NFL, NHL and the NCAA — are the plaintiffs in that case.

What Manfred said on sports betting

Manfred was speaking at the MLB All-Star Game, and addressed the sports betting case. According to The Associated Press:

“If there’s going to be a change in the regulatory structure with respects to sports gambling, we needed to be in a position to meaningfully engage and shape, try to shape what the new regulatory scheme looks like,” Manfred said. “We’re in the process of talking to our owners and figuring out where we want to be in the event that there is in fact a significant change coming.”

Manfred implies there is a “regulatory structure” now, which is not the case. There is a prohibition on states legalizing single-game wagering outside of Nevada sports betting, via the federal law PASPA. Americans wager money estimated in the hundreds of billions of dollars on illegal offshore websites anyway.

This, of course, is not that different from notes Manfred has sounded recently when it comes to sports gambling:

We’ve begun a conversation educating people about what’s out there, what sports leagues in other countries have done, in an effort to make sure Major League Baseball is ready to join in what I think is going to be a dialogue about how sports gambling regulation in the United States should be changed.

Too little, too late for the leagues on sports betting?

It may be optimistic thinking that MLB can have a meaningful say in how regulation of sports betting goes down.

If New Jersey wins and PASPA is effectively struck down, the leagues clearly have a problem on their hands. Before, they had control over how, and if, sports betting might happen in the US.

A victory for NJ would mean states could pass their own laws regulating sports betting. And that would be apart from the “federal framework” that Manfred and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver appear to favor. (A law that does something other than hand states the power to legalize and regulate sports betting might be far-fetched, anyway.)

Said federal framework is not likely to manifest in the next year. A horizon of two to three years would probably be the minimum to get through Congress even in an optimistic scenario.

If the leagues want to have a seat at the table, they probably need to act now.

What do the other leagues think?

We haven’t heard publicly from anyone else. It would seem likely that Silver would take the same position as Manfred.

The other two leagues come from a different starting point. Both the NFL and the NHL publicly say sports betting is not a good thing, even as they both move franchises to Las Vegas.

If they lose their case in front of SCOTUS, it’s safe to assume we’ll see all of them change their tune very quickly. All of them will likely be espousing the benefits of a regulated sports betting market, absent the firewall of PASPA.

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Dustin Gouker
- Dustin Gouker has been a sports journalist for more than 15 years, working as a reporter, editor and designer -- including stops at The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner.