MLB Players’ Association concerned league too comfortable with sports betting

Posted: July 21, 2022, 11:03 a.m.

Last update on: July 21, 2022, 12:51 p.m.

The Major League Baseball Players’ Association thinks MLB is getting too close to the legal sports betting industry.

MLB Players' Association Sportsbook Tony Clark
MLB Players’ Association executive director Tony Clark says states need to build protections for players into their sports betting laws to ensure expansion of play doesn’t threaten big leaguers or their families. . Major League Baseball has embraced legal sports betting in recent years. (Image: Getty)

Tony Clark has served as executive director of the MLB Players’ Association since late 2013. Clark has guided player interests through several critical developments. The latest came in March when the union launched a strike that lasted 99 days until a new collective agreement was agreed.

This week, during the MLB All-Star Game in Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium, Clark expressed concerns about the league’s continued enthusiasm for legal sports betting across the country. When asked if he was concerned that MLB was embracing the broader gaming industry too much, Clark didn’t hesitate.

Obtain [concerned]? No. Is it? Yeah. Has been? Sure,” Clark responded during a press conference with the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

“We are entering a very delicate, and dare I say, dangerous world here. We hope it is truly beneficial for the future of our game and that everyone who participates in it benefits in some way. But when you have players suggesting that PASPA (The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992) has been repealed, that they’ve started to have bookstores following them on social media, it makes you kind of nervous enough quickly,” Clark added.

PASPA has restricted sports betting to a single game anywhere other than Nevada. The federal law ran from its passage in 1992 until its repeal in May 2018 by the United States Supreme Court.

Incessant chords

MLB, along with the NFL, NBA, NHL and NCAA, had for many years opposed efforts to legalize sports betting outside of Nevada. Leagues and collegiate sports bodies argued that widespread legal sports gambling would jeopardize the integrity of their games, as players, coaches, and other insiders could become vulnerable to outside influences.

Proponents of repealing PASPA and giving states the right to decide their own sports betting laws countered by saying that sports betting had been going on for as long as matches were played, albeit by the through unregulated – and therefore technically illegal – channels such as underground bookmakers and offshore websites.

But after the Supreme Court struck down PASPA, more than 30 states have since passed laws allowing legal sports betting. MLB, along with the other organizations, has sought to partner with sports betting interests and the gaming industry. Data shows that legal sports betting increases fan engagement, leading to better in-person stadium attendance, higher television audiences and, subsequently, more overall revenue for the league and its franchisees.

Player, Family Protections

Clark wants to make sure the league’s financial windfall from sports betting doesn’t threaten players or their families.

We will continue to pound the pavement in each of the state legislatures that continue to press, that have language in place, and those that do not yet and are potentially online to ensure that as much as anything, our players are protected, and their families by extension, are protected because of the language that is on the books despite the fact that this train has left the station,” Clark said.

However, Clark’s MLB Players’ Association has also boarded the sports betting train. Earlier this month, the association’s commercial arm – MLB Players, Inc. – reached an agreement with MGM Resorts. The pact allows MGM’s sports betting unit – BetMGM – to use the MLB Players brand in its marketing materials.

Andrew B. Reiter