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Baseball betting explodes as US push for legalisation grows

Wed, Dec 7, 10:49am by Staff Writer

Legal gambling on baseball in the United States has nearly doubled in the space of six years, with over US$1 billion spent during the recent MLB post-season in October.

There was heightened global interest in the World Series this year as both the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago Cubs looked to break long title droughts. In the end, the Cubs ended the ‘Curse of the Billy Goat’ and claimed their first World Series in 108 years.

American baseball fans responded by spending a massive amount through regulated Nevada sportsbooks, and with much more spent through illegal channels, the push for full legalisation of sports betting is growing.

ESPN reports that the $1 billion puts MLB betting well beyond the amount spent on American Football (college and NFL), which had a total of $1.6 billion spent across the entirety of 2015.

But the global estimate in terms of betting on baseball is an astonishing $55 billion, with much of that bet in unregulated markets.

Genius Sports, a sports integrity firm which has partnered with Major League Baseball, monitors sports betting around the world.

“MLB is leading the way amongst the major leagues in sports integrity, and we are delighted to support them in their continued efforts to protect the league from betting-related corruption,” Steven Burton, director of integrity, governance and sports partnership of Genius Sports, told ESPN.

One of those measures could be a push for federally approved sports betting. MLB has not been as public in its support for legalisation as the NBA, whose commissioner Adam Silver called for a change in approach in 2014.

However, the MLB’s stance has softened since current commissioner Rob Manfred took over. Manfred has previously said baseball’s approach to sports betting warranted ‘fresh consideration’ but he admitted that the controversy of the Daily Fantasy Sports’ boom had slowed the pace of change.

The American Gaming Association plans to lobby Congress next year to lift the federal prohibition on state-sponsored sports betting.

“We’re having good conversations with various leagues,” American Gaming Association CEO and president Geoff Freeman said at a workshop this week.

“We’re excited to work with the leagues, quietly. We want to be on the same page. Our hope is to go to Capitol Hill with a consistent message from the industry, from the leagues, from our partners, all of us, with this solution to what is obviously an emerging problem here, but also an emerging opportunity, an opportunity to regulate something that Americans clearly want to do, to protect the integrity of the games we enjoy and to build a better marketplace”.

“I think things are going to go forward on Capitol Hill,” Freeman added. “I expect hearings next year.”

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