Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred (pictured) says he wants to have a sports betting discussion with team owners. In an interview aired Thursday on ESPN’s Outside the Lines program, Manfred said gambling “in terms of society has changed its presence on legalization and I think it’s important for there to be a conversation between me and the owners about what our institutional position will be.”
Manfred said he “understands the arguments” recently made by National Basketball Association commish Adam Silver, who sparked a media ruckus in November by penning a New York Times op-ed calling on the federal government to introduce a regulatory framework for legal sports betting. Silver recently told ESPN that he’d broached the subject with the heads of the other pro sports leagues, who Silver claimed were all studying the issue carefully.
Manfred, who took over the commissioner’s chair from Bud Selig this year, declined to publicly endorse Silver’s appeal to Congress, but his comments nonetheless represent a significant realignment of MLB’s traditionally vehement anti-betting stance.
Meanwhile, an ESPN poll of 73 NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB athletes showed nearly two-thirds (63%) would support legal sports betting. The percentage is all the more surprising given that, of the athletes who responded to the poll, 41% echoed their leagues’ tired talking points that legal sports betting would negatively affect game ‘integrity.’
Just over one-third (34%) of respondents copped to gambling on sports other than their own, while 58% said they enjoyed other forms of gambling. Of those who gambled, the average amount spent per day was $1,763, although one player admitted to wagering a hefty $30k. (Did Charles Barkley come out of retirement?)
Non-sports challenges were particularly popular wagering opportunities, with NHL players betting on rock-paper-scissors matches while “multiple” NBA players reported wagering on whether they could bed a girl. A far nastier challenge involved eating “skin shaving and toenail clippings.” Some 37% of athletes suspected a current or former teammate of having a gambling problem, while 100% of them likely believe teammates have really nasty toenails.