Legal Sports Report

Former MLB Commish: ‘Legal Betting On All Major Sports Is Not Far Off’

Fay Vincent MLB sports betting
Former Major League Baseball commissioner Fay Vincent appears to be bullish on the future of legal sports betting, according to a pair of recent reports.

Former commish writes/talks sports betting

Vincent, who was commissioner from 1989 through 1992, penned this short letter to the editor in the New York Times this month:

For Sale: Team With Few Fans, Sweet Stadium” (front page, July 5), about the effort to sell the Miami Marlins baseball team, doesn’t report the possibility that legal betting on all major sports is not far off. The anticipated flood of revenue to baseball team owners may explain the price being asked, $1.2 billion.

His name also popped up in a Miami Herald piece on the same topic:

Former MLB commissioner Fay Vincent told me that the only way the Marlins are worth $1.3 billion or close to that is if gambling is legalized nationally, which he believes would create a lot more revenue. He believes it’s likely to happen.

Interestingly, Vincent was the deputy commissioner when MLB banned Pete Rose in 1989 for betting on games.

What’s Vincent’s tack on sports betting?

It’s not clear exactly where Vincent’s optimism on the sports betting front comes from. He simply could be reading the tea leaves in the New Jersey sports betting case. If the state were to win its case in the US Supreme Court, that could lead to a massive expansion of wagering in a short timeframe.

Current Commissioner Rob Manfred has also said increasingly positive things about the future of sports gambling in the US.

Vincent also hails from Connecticut, a state where sports betting appears to be on a fast track.

 A ‘flood of revenue’ to MLB owners?

Where the “flood of revenue” that Vincent is talking about will come from isn’t clear.

The most likely avenue for legal sports betting happening quickly is the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act being struck down in court and state-by-state regulation occurring, a la Nevada sports betting. That is difficult (or impossible) for leagues to monetize directly. They probably aren’t going to get a cut of any revenue that comes from new state laws.

But certainly the rollout of sports betting would lead to the ancillary of more interest and higher television ratings. That is something the leagues would benefit from.

But NBA Commissioner Adam Silver likes to make reference to his league’s “intellectual property” when it comes to sports betting. That would be difficult to leverage for direct revenue without the sort of federal framework for which Silver advocates. (Manfred appears closer to getting on board, as well.) That framework seems exceedingly unlikely in the short term.

Regardless, leagues do stand to benefit with the proliferation of sports betting, should that come to fruition.

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Dustin Gouker
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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.