“It feels like everybody wants to get their piece, and then once they get their piece we’ve settled that.”
So begins the clipped version of a Tuesday interview of Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred by Dan Patrick on his eponymous show. We didn’t learn a whole lot more about MLB’s position on legal sports betting as more legal sports betting states emerge, but there is now some clear self-awareness by the league about what’s unfolded so far, of the engagement value of expanded legal sports betting to all sports leagues, and of their vision for the future.
“A lot written about [MLB] lobbying,” Manfred says at one point. Indeed there has been! Here’s our timeline of the leagues’ fight for a sports betting “integrity fee” or “royalty.” More on that!
In ‘Dan Patrick Show’ Interview and Washington D.C. Talk, MLB Commission Rob Manfred Addresses Sports Bettings Laws in U.S., Talks Challenge and Opportunity of Wagering And More
Manfred says during the interview, “We will not be directly in the gaming business.”
Yet, on the “royalty” or “integrity free” front — a direct cut of sports wagers — to our knowledge they are still seeking that in numerous states. Manfred can try to spin it otherwise, but taking a fixed portion of all wagers is indeed direct involvement.
For those reading during work hours, here’s bits of the transcript:
On lobbying and homework:
“There’s been a lot written about us lobbying … We talked to sports in Europe when we realized [legal sports betting] was coming. They said the single biggest mistake you can make is not being active in trying to determine what the legal framework’s going to look like from an integrity perspective.”
On sports betting state laws and regulation:
“We need laws, whether they’re federal laws, state laws, whatever, that allow us to protect the integrity of our sport. That’s our job, 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.”
On fan engagement and not going too far:
“Fan engagement can be improved through gaming. People are more interested in the sport, they consume more of the sports. You want to take advantage of that opportunity without letting gaming become too intrusive. Gaming can go over the top. You kind of saw that with the DraftKings and FanDuel advertising wars as an example.”
“We want to find that sweet spot where fans consumer more of our game without the gaming becoming overwhelming.”
In response to Patrick’s question: ‘Can fans to the ball park and place a bet there?’
“That is the easiest answer in gaming, because off this gaming is going to be mobile. Once you know that, you don’t even need to answer questions about whether there’ll be kiosks or windows. The fact of the matter is you’re going to be able to do that on your phone whether you’re in or out of the ballpark.”
“There is no question that gaming presents and economic opportunity for us. We see it as engagement, sale of intellectual property like statistics. We will not be directly in the gaming business.”
Elsewhere, while in Washington, D.C. for the All-Star Game, Manfred spoke at the National Press Club where he addressed sports betting again. NJ.com’s Jonathan Salant highlighted a few quotes:
“We will never delegate responsibility for those integrity issues to state regulators, whatever their expertise in the gambling area may be. We have our own expertise and no one is more motivated than the commissioner’s office of baseball to make sure that there is no threat to the integrity of our sport.”
“That’s the challenge,” Manfred said. “We need to make sure the legislation gives us an opportunity to defend our integrity in the way that we need to do.”