by Ron Gregory
CHARLESTON – Major League Baseball ramped up their opposition to a sports betting bill currently being considered by the state legislature with a media conference call Friday.
MLB Commissioner Robert D. Manfred, Jr., told reporters his league and other professional sports organizations are opposed to the “deeply-flawed” bill working its way through the legislature.
While citing specific concerns about the legislation, Manfred made it clear that his organization as well as others like the National Basketball Association, would be cooperative in working on a reasonable bill.
MLB and the other sports leagues have noted that the proposed West Virginia law will encourage underage gambling, substantially benefit the state’s five casinos and “shortchange” West Virginia taxpayers.
Under the proposed law, the state would receive ten percent of gambling proceeds with the other 90 percent going to the casinos. At one point, baseball had proposed that one percent go to the professional leagues, who are actually charged with policing the gambling. “We would do it for less than that,” said Manfred Friday.
“We are mostly concerned about encouraging underage gambling, shortchanging the state, allowing players to bet on their own games and how this law would put West Virginia at a major competitive disadvantage with other states.
In the past, lobbyists have pointed out that the professional leagues have the ability to investigate and police their own teams and players throughout the county. The state, through the lottery commission, has no jurisdiction outside West Virginia, they have said.
Saying the percentage of funds designated to go to the state is “far below the number any other state has suggested,” Manfred said his organization cannot “avoid or responsibility to protect the integrity of our games.” Because the leagues already essentially have police powers over their teams, Manfred said it only makes sense for them to be the primary investigators when it comes to sports gambling.
While Manfred said league representatives have “been in constant contact with the governor,” their input was not requested by legislators. “It’s just an ill-advised bill,” he said. Although MLB is not endorsing pro sports gambling, he said it is pretty well understood that it will happen some time. “When it does, we want everyone to be protected,” the commissioner added.
In terms of communication, the bill does not require state officials to use official league data, he said. “That’s another problem.”
The other major professional sports leagues are expected to make announcements concerning their opposition to the bill as it currently stands.