Rob Manfred Wants Online Sports Betting
A few months ago, Chris Christie made a move to get sports betting, both online and offline, legalized in New Jersey. While it passed, it was quickly put on hold by the big four sports leagues – the MLB, NBA, NHL, and NFL. Adam Silver, NBA Commissioner, later elaborated, stating that he’d love for it to be legalized and that there needs to be some sort of framework for it. Now, another member of the big four has caved.
Rob Manfred, the newest MLB commissioner (as of January 25th, 2015), made some quite revealing comments on ESPN’s Outside the Lines. When asked to comment about the growing movement of sports betting, he had this to say:
“Nobody’s talking about a situation where anyone, any way involved with the play of the game on the field would be subject to rules different than they are today. The ban on that type of involvement would stay in place. Having said that, gambling in terms of our society has changed its presence. The legalization. And I think it’s important for there to be a conversation between me and the owners about what our institutional position will be.”
What’s this? A person in a position of power coming out in support of online sports betting? He realizes that it’s a huge, untapped source of revenue. It’s all about the bottom line, of course, and that’s fine – that’s what it’s always been about.
Make no mistake – this is huge news. Three months ago, the big four didn’t even want to consider online sports betting. Now, the commissioners of the MLB and NBA want to have serious discussions about it. They know that this could bring in millions, perhaps billions, of dollars in extra revenue with little to no extra effort exerted by anyone – and that’s before considering any bonuses or no deposit promotions.
Now, the only two holdouts are the NFL. Roger Goodell, who has been the NFL commissioner since August 8th, 2006, opposes sports betting. When lawmakers attempted to legalize it in Delaware in 2009, Delaware Governor Jack Markell says that he personally received a letter from Roger Goodell who urged him to “not go forward with this.”
Gary Bettman, the NHL commissioner, has held that position since February 1st, 1993, and is the league’s first and only commissioner. He made several comments to Rachel Nichols in an interview with CNN last November that suggests he may not be as opposed to it as originally thought:
“I think there needs some attention to be paid to what sport is going to represent to young people. Should it be viewed in the competitive, team-oriented sense that it is now, or does it become a vehicle for betting, which may in effect change the atmosphere in the stadiums and the arenas?”
He elaborated on how it’d change sports, stating that fans would root for either their favorite team or the spread. Rachel asked him about how Vegas, the gambling capital of the world, is getting an arena. Bettman commented that the NHL is extremely popular in many places, and Las Vegas is one of them.
So once again, we’re left wondering what’s going to come. It’s taken three months, but the odds have improved by 25%. Now that the MLB Commissioner has caved, it’s possible that the NHL Commissioner will as well, but Roger Goodell is going to be extremely tough to convince.
As always, time will tell. We’re significantly closer to legalized online sports betting, and, in turn, legalized online gambling, than we were last week.