First of all, let’s get something out of the way: There is a massive difference between betting on baseball and other forms of gaming associated to baseball.
Let’s get something else out of the way: More than one of you will find that statement highly debatable.
In case you hadn’t noticed, while you were sleeping, MLB clubs have quietly been putting their names on scratch-off tickets, and have cozied up with casinos with sponsorship agreements that are blurring the line between MLB’s once staunch view that abhorred anything related to gambling in place of that all-mighty salve for what ills owners: money.
Maybe it’s a change in how society views what has now been labeled “gaming.” Regardless, the movement continues, and MLB is shifting with the times.
Bill Shea of Crain’s Detroit Business covers the topic today in Tigers lottery? MLB eases up, a bit, on gambling. As Shea reports, “Legalized gambling, once unthinkable in relation to Major League Baseball, has gradually gained limited acceptance in the game as a source of revenue.” I provide my views on the matter within:
"Baseball will continue to change the configuration of its rules as their business practices shift and change. Their views on things that may have been taboo in the past change," said Maury Brown, president of Portland, Ore.-based Business of Sports Network, which includes a Web site [The Biz of Baseball] devoted to the business side of baseball. "There's definitely a softening of (prohibitions against legalized gambling) in baseball."
The article outlines how the gaming industry worked to get their foot in the door with baseball. Something that did not happen overnight:
New York-based lottery ticket maker Scientific Games Inc. spent more than six years trying to persuade baseball to sign a deal to allow team logos on state lottery scratch-offs, said Steve Saferin, vice president and president of properties. The company has licensing deals with Ford Motor Co., Chrysler L.L.C. and a variety of popular culture icons such as the TV show "American Idol."
"Lotteries now are in all but seven states and are viewed by a lot of people as a legitimate way to raise money for good causes," he said.
If the words, “Pete Rose” rolled off your lips, you are not alone, MLB’s main concern was how the association of scratch-offs would be viewed publicly in light of baseball’s hard line on gambling within the game.
As for teams that are involved with scratch-off tickets the Red Sox are but one of 22 teams that sell scratch-off tickets. As this article outlines, the Tigers had two kiosks at Comerica Park where $5 scratch-offs tickets from the Michigan Lottery were sold last season, emblazoned with the Detroit Tigers logo. How are sales of the tickets? As Shea reports, “Since going on sale April 2, about $10 million worth of the scratch-off Tigers lottery tickets have been sold, the state said, which is about 10 percent higher than average $5 tickets sales.”
As I detail in the end of the article, it’s about maximizing non-game day related revenues.
So what does the future hold for baseball and legalized gambling?
Business of Sports Network's Brown thinks it will be driven by profits.
"Are we going to see video poker at the ball park? I don't know. In 20 years, it wouldn't surprise me," he said. "Baseball has gotten wise and smart about how to extract revenue out of things other than baseball. It's a much more sophisticated league."
Maury Brown is the founder and president of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football and The Biz of Basketball (The Biz of Hockey will be launching shortly). He is also an author for Baseball Prospectus, Basketball Prospectus and is an available writer for other media outlets.
Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.