We’ve been following baseball’s efforts to get a cut of what is soon to be legalized sports gambling proceeds in most states around the country. Major League Baseball has been characterizing that cut as an “integrity fee,” which it says it needs in order to keep the sport free of graft and corruption but, as we’ve discussed, the fees sought are so great and the risk posed by legalized sports gambling so undefined and, likely, low, that it simply looks like a cash grab.
Commissioner Rob Manfred has been slammed quite a bit for his efforts and public comments on this topic, so it seems that the league has changed tack a bit, at least in New York, which is about to take up legalized gambling. They’re sending Hall of Famer Joe Torre to do the glad-handing. From the Associated Press:
. . . Torre, a top executive for Major League Baseball, told reporters he was in Albany on behalf of the league to discuss the legalized sports-betting issue, which has emerged as a top legislative priority since the Supreme Court ruling May 14. The court struck down the federal law prohibiting most states from allowing wagering on athletic events.
“I’m not trying to lobby one side or another,” said Torre, who also managed the Mets, Cardinals, Braves and Dodgers. “I just want you to take care of our game.”
Torre is not a business-side guy. He’s the on-field czar, so he would not typically have much business in this sort of thing. But he’s a popular celebrity, especially in New York, so of course the league is using him for goodwill.
Not that he’s alone. Notably, Torre was accompanied by Morgan Sword, MLB’s senior vice president for league economics and operations who specifically said that they’re there to get an “integrity fee” of .25 percent on wagers placed. So, yeah, even if Torre said he’s not there to lobby anyone, when you’re with a top business side exec and you’re trying to get the legislature and the governor to pass laws which give your private business proceeds from another business and/or state revenues, you’re lobbying. Even if you “aw shucks”-it to the press.
It’s unlikely that New York gets legalized gambling passed before its legislative session ends later this month, but here’s hoping states don’t go along with MLB on this shakedown cruise.