Major League Baseball is paying more attention than ever to the game’s integrity and the efforts necessary to minimize the chance of fixed games or compromised competition.
The steps it is taking come at a time when the popularity of daily fantasy sports betting and the talk of legalized sports betting beyond Nevada and the European markets where it is legal are getting increased attention from lawmakers responding in various ways to the public’s appetite for increased wagering opportunities.
This season MLB has contracted with Genius Sports a London-based company to monitor baseball betting, using analytics, algorithms and proprietary software to ensure that nothing untoward might be taking place that could compromise the sport’s integrity. Baseball officials stress that the security measure wasn’t prompted by any incident or specific suspicion.
“We just think it’s a prudent thing to do in this day and age. That’s it,” said Dan Halem, MLB’s chief legal officer.
Genius Sports, sends regular reports via email that show baseball betting trends. Less than two months into the season, “knock on wood, we haven’t had any problems come up,” Halem said.
Last year, more than $897 million was wagered on baseball games in Nevada sports books alone, trailing only football ($1.7 billion) and basketball ($1.2 billion), according to the Nevada Gaming Control Board. While Nevada’s baseball betting numbers have nearly doubled in the past decade, gambling experts suspect millions and millions more are bet illegally each year.
While NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has argued for legalizing sports gambling, baseball officials have been more cautious with their words. Baseball hasn’t changed its anti-gambling stance, and Rob Manfred, the MLB commissioner, said this week the ongoing debate over daily fantasy sports has “slowed those discussions.”
“There’s not a lot of buzz among the group internally,” he said. “I think we’re waiting to see how the daily fantasy issue works out from a regulatory perspective before we make any move.”
Locke said the company’s betting and monitoring services are closely linked but still independent.
Phil Hevener has been writing about the Nevada gaming business for more than 30 years. Email: