It seems MLB wants fans to forget about its stance on sports betting as it prepares to play regular season games in the United Kingdom.
MLB is spending millions of dollars to keep sports betting in the United States from mimicking sports betting in the United Kingdom. So naturally, when the opportunity arose to move a series of regular season games featuring its marquee rivalry to the UK, the league jumped at the chance to prove how legal, robust sports betting that doesn’t include a cut for MLB will harm its business.
On Tuesday, May 8, MLB made its designs for a regular season series between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees to take place in London next season official. The city’s Olympic stadium will host another series in 2020. MLB is selling it as an attempt to grow the game internationally, which is curious given its activities on an issue that it would seem to be at odds with the United Kingdom over.
In the United Kingdom, wagering money on solitary sporting events is not only completely legal but commonplace. Additionally, there are no laws that require sports books to pay MLB a cut of their revenues to reimburse MLB for costs associated with “integrity” or “intellectual property rights.” That’s in stark contrast to what MLB is fighting to make the sports betting landscape look like in the United States of America, MLB’s biggest market.
MLB has spent a lot of resources to ensure that sports betting in the U.S. remains illegal. As one of the plaintiffs in Christie v. NCAA — the federal lawsuit which is currently before the US Supreme Court and could decide the future of the federal statute which makes sports betting illegal in most of the country — lawyers for MLB have argued that sports betting harms MLB’s business. That’s only half of what MLB is currently doing on that front in the U.S., however.
Anticipating a possible Supreme Court ruling that would make federal law silent on the issue of sports betting and leave it for the individual states to determine, MLB has joined the NBA in spending millions lobbying members of several different states’ legislatures to enact laws which force sports books operating in those states to pay MLB a portion of their revenue, use MLB-approved information only, and share bettors’ information with MLB. Part of its argument for those inclusions are similarly that MLB’s business would be harmed by a sports betting framework that doesn’t include those provisions. That’s exactly what sports betting looks like in the UK.
It seems MLB is more than willing to overlook those things which aren’t to its liking in the UK for the potential of increased interest in its product. That’s exactly what legal, unfettered sports betting in the US would produce as well, if MLB doesn’t look a gift horse in the mouth too much and ruin it.
MLB’s hypocrisy on the issue of sports betting has never been more blatant than voluntarily making its games available to be wagered upon just months after arguing before the US Supreme Court and simultaneously trying to convince state legislators that people placing wagers on its games is a great harm to MLB.