Since the Black Sox scandal of 1919, Major League Baseball has been very careful to try to keep gambling out of the game. It even led to the permanent suspension of one of its all-time great players, when it was discovered he was betting on the game while playing and managing a team.
Now the league is faced with a new challenge as they are considering allowing the MotorCity Casino to take wagers on Major League Baseball. A predicament that has surfaced specifically because of the owner of the casino, Marian Illitch.
It just so happens that her family also owns hockey’s Detroit Red Wings and MLB’s Detroit Tigers. This creates a difficult situation where the owner of a team is also accepting bets on the sport.
Unfortunately for baseball, the Michigan State Legislature did not address this problem themselves. When sports betting was approved in December, the bill did not address a sports owner also owning a casino. Whether that was by design or a simple oversight is not known, but it has left the matter to the league to decide if this is in the best interests of the game.
“Generally, under our policies, if an owner of a team also owns a sports betting operation, that owner wouldn’t be able to take bets on that owner’s team,” said Kenny Gersh, executive vice president of gaming and new business ventures for MLB. “We’re looking to adapt our policies to see if there’s a way that if there is a separation between the owner of a club and the operations of a sportsbook as it relates to baseball, then we may get comfortable with it.”
Under the current rules, Major League Baseball does not allow an owner to run an operation where bets on baseball games can also be made. This is a clear conflict of interest according to Gersh. However, the league is not shutting the door to the possibility. In fact, it looks like they are in the process of creating a provision where the owners can run a team and a sportsbook.
“We would want the Ilitches to not be operating the sportsbook as it relates to baseball,” he said. “We are working closely with the Ilitch family on making sure they can offer a compelling product to sports fans without having a conflict. We wouldn’t want any of our owners to benefit one way or another on whether their team wins or loses the game.”
Maintaining the integrity of the game has been essential to MLB since the aformentioned Black Sox Scandal. But the 2018 Supreme Court decision which struck down the federal betting ban has put Major League Baseball (MLB) in the precarious situation of allowing betting on games while also doing all that they can to protect the integrity of the game.