MLB Asks Lawmakers to be Cautious in Recently Legalized Sports Betting World

On July 31, 2018, at the National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL) Bryan Seeley, a senior vice president with Major League Baseball, asked lawmakers to be cautious in the recently legalized sports betting world.

As we have previously reported, in May 2018, the United States Supreme Court struck down a federal statute controlling the states’ ability to regulate sports gambling. In its majority opinion, the court voted to strike down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA). Although PAPSA did not make sports gambling itself a federal crime, the Act made it unlawful for states to promote, license, or otherwise authorize wagering on competitive sporting events. Despite the Act’s “grandfather” provisions that provided for the existing forms of sports betting in four states, including Nevada, states were otherwise prohibited from regulating sports betting individually. Since the ruling, Delaware and New Jersey have begun offering Las Vegas-style state-conducted sports betting. Mississippi and West Virginia are expected to have their own state-conducted sports betting sometime before the start of the NFL season.

Seeley said to a crowd of lawmakers and top experts on the topic, “I’m telling you how great baseball is, because I need you to understand what’s at stake in this debate.” Seeley reminded his listeners of the 1919 World Series and of the pressures that sports betting has on professional sports. Seeley said, “I’m not here to tell you to stop sports betting. As long as sports betting is done right there’s potentially nothing wrong [but] we need your help to protect our national pastime.”

Seeley urged lawmakers to adopt the simplest possible regulatory schemes, with active collaboration from the various sports leagues. “A big frustration is how nebulous gambling laws have been,” Seeley said, “the language of [some of] the federal law is very broad.” Specifically, Seeley ask lawmakers to include guidelines and regulations, which would allow regulators to ban betting on certain events or leagues; require data sharing of those participating; and some sort of required reporting scheme where “fixing” or other corruption is detected, reported, and tracked. However, Seeley also called for mobile betting and royalty fees paid to each league, which was not met with enthusiasm.

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