MLB Steps In On West Virginia Sports Betting Legalization

February 14, 2018
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Major League Baseball just made a significant shift in their stance on legalizing sports gambling in the US. The league issued an official statement regarding West Virginia’s latest legislative effort to bring sports betting to the state. This move further combines the MLB and NBA in how they view the prospect of sports gambling in the US as the possibility of legalization nears.

West Virginia has been the most aggressive state with sports gambling reform outside of New Jersey. If the NJ Supreme Court case ends up going in their favor, West Virginia will likely be the next state up to offer legal betting options. There is currently a bill making its way through state legislature, and now the MLB has stepped in to make their opinions known.

The MLB’s statement expresses their desire for sports betting legislation to be “clear” and “robust” provisions for protecting the integrity of their game. They see West Virginia’s law as failing to meet those standards. They stated that they hope the state will conduct an overhaul with the legislature and make the necessary adjustments. They even went so far as to offer help with “improving” the bill’s current language.

This comes in wake of a recent document issued jointly by the MLB and NBA that calls for a sports betting integrity fee in states looking to feature legal sports wagering. The leagues want 1% of all money wagered to go back to the leagues. In their eyes, they are creating the markets that people will be betting on, so they should get a piece of the prize. As if this wasn’t enough, the leagues have made other stipulations that they want West Virginia to adhere to. These include allowing the leagues to veto certain betting forms, such as live betting and wagering on minor league games and forcing states to use official league-data for betting outcomes. They also want consumer protections for advertising restrictions and programs for addictive gamblers. The 2 leagues wish for sports betting operators to report any abnormal betting activity back to them and they strongly encourage the use of online platforms to pull people away from licensed, US friendly offshore sportsbooks, which are currently the leading legal online betting options.

Basically, the NBA and MLB are the first 2 leagues to accept that legal sports betting is likely coming. This move is them showing that they realize that, but aren’t willing to let it turn into a Wild West environment where they don’t get any of the profits. If these demands are met, expect the NFL and NHL to make similar ones, if not more restrictive.

Current MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has spoken out on sports betting before, stating that the league would reexamine their stance on the matter. His predecessor, Bud Selig, was wholeheartedly against it. This shows how the perception of legalized betting has changed, but the battle is not won yet.

Regarding the West Virginia legislation, it is unclear whether the state legislature will bend to the MLB and NBA’s demands. However, given the political climate, it is possible they reach some sort of compromise. If not, these leagues will make it hard to pass any sort of legislation on the matter.