Rovell: MLB’s Request to Stop Spring Training Betting Makes No Sense

Rovell: MLB’s Request to Stop Spring Training Betting Makes No Sense article feature image

Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Fernando Tatis Jr.

  • MLB requested that the Nevada Gaming Council outlaw betting on Spring Training games and was denied.
  • But it begs the question that Darren Rovell tries to answer -- with such little interest and low limits, why even ask?

On Monday, Major League Baseball was denied its request by the Nevada Gaming Control Board to prohibit gambling on Spring Training games.


MLB claimed that these games have “heightened integrity risks,” essentially because players are less motivated. And the reason MLB is acting this year is because seven states joined Nevada in permitting legal bets since last Spring Training, when PASPA was still in place.

Before we go there, let’s explore what’s going to happen.

It’s true that there is a heightened security risk. It’s not necessarily that players won’t try as hard. It’s more that there are players in games that are likely going back to the minor leagues to make $2,500 a month.

Point MLB, right?

Well, not necessarily.

Players in that position, especially during Spring Training, are ultra motivated to make the team and fulfill the dream than to make money.

Secondly, especially in baseball, playing awful is hard to do. It would have to be a pitcher. What exactly would you do? Tip pitches? Walk three batters in a row?

How long could you get away with it before being yanked?

And here’s the final point that shows that baseball has absolutely no case.



There isn’t much demand, either.

The sports bettor likes to bet when he or she feels that he or she has inside information or knows something that makes the bet make more sense.

Spring Training doesn’t make sense.

The Orioles went 17-12 in Spring Training last year and finished 47-115, the worst season since 2003 Tigers

In 2017, the top-four teams in Cactus League standings failed to make the playoffs.

When the Cubs won their first World Series in 2016, they went 11-19 in Spring Training that year, which was 2nd worst in Cactus League.

All of that helps explain why books don’t want to take on big wagers for spring training. In fact, max bets at most places are just $1,000 on a side and $500 on totals.

So if anyone is trying to pound a side through a series of bets, it’s going to be seen.

“We have such low limits that they don’t even hit the microscope,” said one sportsbook director. “Any suspicious bets on exhibition baseball would stick out like snow in Vegas.”

I understand the idea that baseball was going for. But there’s a not really a sound case to be made here.

And it’s strange they wouldn’t go down the road I did and truly analyze how something nefarious would actually come to be.

What’s the harm? Well, they’ve decided to go down the road of embracing sports betting with their official deal with MGM. And I agree that legalized gambling could help baseball attract new audience, perhaps more than any other sport.

Why take a step back for this?