The latest dissonance from a US pro sports league on the sports betting front is a doozy.
Major League Baseball is claiming that it needs to limit wagering on minor league games because the players could be subject to influence from people trying to manipulate games.
At the same time, the league wants to take steps to exempt minor leaguers from federal labor laws, meaning they could, in theory, be paid under the standards for minimum wage.
If it’s difficult for you to square those two stances, you’re not alone.
MLB vs. minor leaguers
Let’s start here: The Washington Post reported on the lobbying effort from MLB in Congress on pay for minor leaguers:
The exemption would represent the culmination of more than two years of lobbying by Major League Baseball, which has sought to preempt a spate of lawsuits that have been filed by minor leaguers alleging they have been illegally underpaid.
The league has long claimed exemptions for seasonal employees and apprenticeships, allowing its clubs to pay players as little as $1,100 a month, well under the pay that would be dictated under federal minimum wage and overtime standards. But with those exemptions under legal challenge, Major League Baseball has paid lobbyists hundreds of thousands of dollars to write a specific exemption into the law.
If that sounds like a crappy and craven thing to do to people that work for you, again you’re not alone. But it gets worse when you consider MLB’s stance on sports betting.
MLB + sports betting…
MLB is lobbying for legal sports betting in states around the country, as long as it meshes with what it — and lobbying partner NBA — want (pending a change in the federal ban, of course).
One of the tenets of any sports betting law, according to MLB, should be leagues’ ability to limit or stop wagers on anything they want.
From a lobbying document that MLB and NBA have been using:
Certain types of bets are more susceptible to corruption and fixing than others — like… bets on minor league games
The argument, of course, is that athletes who are not at the top level of their sports make less money than their major league counterparts. Unsavory elements, could, under that theory, pay players to try to manipulate sports betting outcomes.
That theory ignores the idea that people are less likely to try to fix games in a regulated market than the current black market that exists nearly unchecked in the US.
Wait a second…
So, to recap:
MLB, out of one side of its mouth, says minor leaguers shouldn’t have to be paid by minimum standards.
Out of the other, it says the players don’t make enough money to keep them free from the possibility of manipulation in sports gambling.
Yikes. To wit:
The leagues, of course, are also looking to profit from sports betting laws directly, via everything from a monopoly over data sources to integrity fees.
So when you hear MLB say it can’t afford to pay minor league players and also says those players are susceptible to match-fixing, listen with a healthy amount of skepticism.