Just over the last week, Rob Manfred has suggested several rule changes for Major League Baseball. From changing the strike zone to new rules governing how extra innings are played, he’s actually created some drama as we’re counting down the days until pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training next week. Now he’s apparently thinking of adding a little more drama by changing the relationship between MLB and gambling.
Major League Baseball has always had an interesting relationship with gambling. There’s the infamous Black Sox scandal from 1919 and the constant debate surrounding whether or not Pete Rose should be eligible for the Hall of Fame. Considering how fiercely the league has come down on players who participate in gambling, it shouldn’t be too surprising to learn that players still wouldn’t be able to place money on the game. But the plain and simple fact that they might lower the hatred towards gambling is likely going to shock some fans.
With that being said, it actually shouldn’t be too surprising nowadays that sports and gambling are closely connected. Yes, you can always go to Las Vegas and bet on games, but fantasy leagues have become more and more popular in recent years. Most offices have some sort of fantasy football league or Super Bowl pool and most hardcore baseball fans also participate in some sort of fantasy league. Combine that with how there are now single day fantasy leagues, those leagues are beginning to more directly resemble gambling.
These fantasy leagues are a way for fans to become more engaged with baseball. Even if their favorite team isn’t playing in a certain game, for instance, they’ll pay attention to it if one of their fantasy players is participating. According to Daniel Roberts of Yahoo! Finance, Manfred claims legalized betting on baseball might have a similar impact.
“There is this buzz out there in terms of people feeling that there may be an opportunity here for additional legalized sports betting,” Manfred said. “We are reexamining our stance on gambling. It’s a conversation that’s ongoing with the owners […] It can be a form of fan engagement, it can fuel the popularity of a sport. We all understand that.”