“PLAY BALL” – Major League Baseball and MGM Resorts Ink Official Partnership Agreement
If you're looking for a sign to indicate how strong the wave of support is for legal sports betting across the United States, something to watch is the sports leagues themselves. The owners and executives who run professional sports are going to be privy to information long before the everyday fan will.
Therefore, it would seem to be a clear indication of where things are headed when a pro sports league partners with a giant from the casino industry. Well, that has just happened. Known to its most passionate fans as America's Pastime, Major League Baseball announced it will form an official gambling partnership with MGM Resorts. This is more than news, it's big news.
How We Got Here
This announcement is colossal in relation to the state-by-state progression of legalized sports betting. It is, however, one in a rapid series of proclamations that have swept the sports world since last May.
On May 14, 2018, the US Supreme Court reversed course on a 1992 ruling that forbade states from legally operating any type of sports betting operations. Overturning Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association swung open the door for states to choose their own course of action. The actual plaintiffs in the lawsuit who brought about the SCOTUS ruling were state governments. The suit was triggered by New Jersey and 17 other states. It didn't take much to figure out where this whole idea of legal sports betting might be headed.
New Jersey took less than two months to establish legal sports betting venues at existing casino locations. Delaware actually beat New Jersey to the door, but the Garden State already had an assortment of physical facilities ready and willing to open up sportsbooks. Since then, this wave of revenue-driven enthusiasm has swept across the country.
States like West Virginia and Pennsylvania have already accepted multi-million dollar license applications from dozens of gaming corporations who want in on the action. The notion of legal sports betting is no longer a question of if, but when.
When one of the biggest professional sports leagues in the world ties the knot with one of the richest casinos, it would seem clear what direction the country is headed. A lot has happened prior to Major League Baseball becoming the exclusive gambling partner of MGM Resorts, but this joint venture sends a clear signal about where we're headed.
Where We're Headed
The casual sports fan might deem the MGM-MLB partnership as just another step in an inevitable, but painfully gradual process. However, consider that Major League Baseball has always been deemed the most conservative of the big-3 professional sports leagues. Even the commissioner of the NBA voiced support for legalized sports betting before the high court announced its landmark ruling. While Major League Baseball quietly hooked up with DraftKings in a supportive relationship for daily fantasy sports, it garnered minimal national publicity.
There was no big press conference or bombastic announcement, it kind of just happened. Recall also, that professional baseball is the sport that has been rocked by betting scandals. No true baseball fan is without some appreciation for the history behind the notorious Black Sox Scandal during the 1919 World Series. In more recent memory, there was a man known to his beloved fans as "Charlie Hustle". Pete Rose, once a revered name in the game, is still a man without a league because of ties to gambling activities. To think that the MLB is going to step into the ring with a massive casino operation without doing their due diligence, think again.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred made this blatantly clear when he discussed how this partnership came to be. Manfred indicated that "senior people" had been working on this proposal for a year and a half. Baseball's executives realized that linking with a gambling institution would foster questions about the integrity of the game. Major League Baseball dotted all their i's and crossed all their t's.
So, to summarize this whole partnership between Major League Baseball and MGM Resorts, in a single word it would be labeled "HUGE". At no point in history has a professional sports league been so collectively linked to a gambling business. While many of the developments since the US Supreme court ruling have been important, this one is as monumental as they come. It's a strong indication that on March 27, 2019, there are going to be a lot of enthusiastic sports bettors listening for those magical words, "PLAY BALL"!