On Wednesday, Manfred made an appearance at the Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit in New York, where he noted that there was “this buzz out there that there may be an opportunity here for additional legalized sports betting. We are reexamining our stance on gambling. It’s a conversation that’s ongoing with the owners.”
The ‘buzz’ Manfred referenced centers around the US Supreme Court sending out signals last month that it may consider New Jersey’s bid to launch legal sports betting within its borders, a plan that lower courts have struck down as a violation of the federal PASPA sports betting prohibition.
This year has already witnessed politicians in four US states – Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania and South Carolina – file legislation that would authorize betting within their borders if either the Supreme Court sides with New Jersey or federal politicians replace PASPA with a legal framework for nationwide betting.
To be sure, Manfred has been making similarly hopeful noises on this front for a while now. Two years ago, Manfred announced that “society has changed its presence on [gambling] legalization” and thus he wanted to have “a conversation” with MLB owners to establish an “institutional position” regarding sports betting.
On Wednesday, Manfred acknowledged that sports betting was already going on, and thus MLB owners needed to decide whether they were “better off in a world where we have a nice, strong, uniform, federal regulation of gambling that protects the integrity of sports, provides sports with the tools to ensure that there is integrity in the competition … Or are we better off closing our eyes to that and letting it go on as illegal gambling? And that’s a debatable point.”
Manfred’s willingness to initiate a betting conversation with MLB owners was preceded by National Basketball Association commissioner Adam Silver, who in 2014 wrote a New York Times op-ed saying legal wagering was “inevitable” and thus “a different approach” was needed. On Wednesday, Manfred said Silver “has framed it the best.”
Meanwhile, Yahoo News reported that attorney Chuck Cooper is the odds-on favorite to be nominated by President Donald Trump to serve as solicitor general. The appointment could be crucial to New Jersey’s chances at the Supreme Court, as the solicitor general has been asked to file a brief detailing the White House’s position on the legal betting question.
Trump himself weighed in on the subject on Super Bowl Sunday in an interview with Westwood One’s Jim Gray. Trump said he wouldn’t approach the issue “lightly,” but would seek input from the commissioners of the major sports leagues, as well as “lots of law enforcement officials, because, obviously that’s a big step.”