Guaranteed pre-lineup approval - baseball’s latest ploy to enforce wagering "integrity"
With spring training entering its final few weeks, Major League Baseball and its commissioner, Rob Manfred, have quickly abandoned their plea to have sportsbooks in Nevada, New Jersey and Pennsylvania withdraw wagering on Spring Training games. Quickly realizing it was an absurd suggestion, they've come up with an even more aggressive game plan to attack new legalized wagering forces.
Beginning this season, all major league teams will be required to submit starting lineups to MLB's data operations department at least 15 minutes before they are made public. This is an effort by the league to reduce the value of inside information and add uniformity to how data is disseminated. Starting lineups and umpire assignments -- two things valued by both oddsmakers and bettors -- will be released first on MLB's official data feed.
Previously, starting lineups were announced on social media accounts or by beat writers. Now teams will have to submit them to the league first. Subsequently, when MLB receives and approves them, they will then announce them to the public. Sadly, this is another security measure to seemingly "protect the public" with a far more selfish, hidden purpose.
"We are updating a number of our procedures to reduce integrity risks associated with the expansion of sports betting in light of the Supreme Court's ruling last May," Major League Baseball said in a statement. "One new procedure is that we now ask clubs to submit starting lineups in a uniform fashion in order to reduce the risk of confidential information being tipped."
Top of the Batting Order
While seeming noble to protect baseball bettors' interests, there’s no doubt other priority reasons for MLB's newest quest. Joining the other three prominent U.S. sports leagues, plus the NCAA, baseball has creatively tried to find lucrative ways to capitalize on legalized wagering since the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of PASPA (the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act) last May.
Leading off has been their renewed interest instituting an "integrity fee" imposed upon sportsbooks for bets on baseball games. Following the NBA’s introduction of the concept, it’s clear a whopping 1% tax has been declared unworkable. However, the league office would like some fee to be potentially explored. Manfred once candidly admitted that MLB did not trust regulators to monitor integrity. He claimed "We’re not going to delegate it to some regulator in New Jersey or whatever, with all due respect. We care more about it. It’s what we’re about."
Bottom line, Major League Baseball believes they could be the ultimate court to police any potential illegal problem before it happens. Drawing a comparison, a government-like agency to protect the people while delivering an honest product. But, while charging that integrity fee like a tax, someone (namely, the bettor) will inevitably have to pay the price.
Last week, MLB also announced a wide-ranging partnership with leading sports data intelligence provider Sportradar that will allow official real-time statistics to be distributed to sportsbooks in regulated jurisdictions. Sportradar also helps service potential problem areas of wager movements and detects irregular patterns.
If You Can’t "Bet-em, Join-em"
While making this unprecedented and unusual announcement, Manfred may have also hinted toward another motivating reason behind the decision. Back in November 2018, casino giant MGM became the "official gaming partner" of Major League Baseball, following agreements the company already inked with the NBA and NHL. The huge deal includes access to league logos and official data for use in sports betting operations. It’s possible this is a first-step as part of their partnership agreement. However, if effective, this potentially benefits all competitive operations.
Who Drinks this Juice?
I hate to be cynical about all this seemingly good news, while remaining concerned about the bettor. Should this MLB practice become a successful trend, look for it to spread toward the other major sports. The troubling question is who pays for this insurance?
Will traditional baseball "dime lines" expand within legalized sportsbooks to accommodate new guidelines and protective measures? Or worse, could a new cheating scandal prove the league’s need for heightened security and integrity fees. Either way, not good news for the sports bettor.
Again, shouldn’t baseball do more research and understand 95% concern and wagering focus is on the PITCHING match-up, not the starting eight line-ups? It always has been a standard custom for all sportsbooks to cancel listed pitcher wagers should either starting pitcher in a game match-up be scratched. Whether it be a last second replacement for Bryce Harper or a forgettable right fielder for the Minnesota Twins doesn’t indicate a potential wagering scandal.
Unfortunately, MLB along with the NFL, NBA and NHL cannot adhere to the age-old adage, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. Certainly not where there’s potential millions of new incremental dollars to be made. That you can bet on.
Glenn Greene covers the games from a betting angle every week exclusively at OSGA.com. For weekly betting insights, including previews and picks from Glenn, click here.