Major League Baseball struck out in an attempt to clamp down on spring training betting last week, with the Nevada Gaming Control Board telling the league that they saw no reason why bettors couldn’t put action on the preseason contests.
The request came in on Wednesday, just one day before the first scheduled spring training games were set to begin.
MLB: Spring Training Games Have Integrity Risks
In a statement, MLB officials said that spring training games were particularly vulnerable to fixing or other manipulations that could impact the integrity of the contests and the betting markets.
“Spring Training games are exhibition contests in which the primary focus of Clubs and players is to prepare for the coming season rather than to win games or perform at maximum effort on every single play,” the league said in a statement. “These games are not conducive to betting and carry heightened integrity risks, and states should not permit bookmakers to offer bets on them.”
According to ESPN’s David Payne Purdum, similar requests were made to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board and the Mississippi Gaming Commission. On Twitter, Purdum said that the PGCB was asking operators to stop offering betting on spring training games until it could further examine the issue. Meanwhile, Legal Sports Report reported that the New Jersey Department of Gaming Enforcement received the same request, which is currently under review by regulators.
In the league’s statement, MLB also pointed out that the expansion of sports betting across the United States has increased the dangers it sees in betting on spring training games.
“Limited and historically in-person betting on Spring Training in one state did not pose nearly the same integrity risks that widespread betting on Spring Training in multiple states will pose,” the league wrote in its statement.
Nevada Cites History in Denying Request
Nevada regulators fired back a response to MLB on Thursday that said that they have no reason to think there’s a problem with spring training wagering.
“Based on our history and experience in regulating sports wagering, we are not inclined to prohibit our licensed sports books from taking wagers on MLB Spring Training games,” the NGCB wrote in denying the MLB request. “We have a common goal to combat sports bribery and maintain the integrity of your sport, and are available to discuss ways we can work together in this effort.”
A decision on whether or not to allow betting on spring training games won’t ultimately impact all that many bettors. The preseason exhibition contests aren’t particularly popular, and sportsbooks typically set limits that are lower than in most forms of sports betting, often allowing only $1,000 or less to be bet on the winner of each game.
“We have such low limits that they don’t even hit the microscope,” one sportsbook director told Darren Rovell of The Action Network. “Any suspicious bets on exhibition baseball would stick out like snow in Las Vegas.”
Those limits will go up exponentially once the regular season begins. Opening Day for the 2018 season is set for March 28, the earliest starting date in history excepting games held in international locations.