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Deyan Dimitrov December 7, 2023 3 min read
Baseball Writers Association Seeks to Regulate Growing Gambling Partnerships
Rising concerns by fans and stakeholders regarding baseball’s gamification and the rising threats to the sport’s integrity have sparked a new wave of discussions
As the MLB witnesses an influx of gambling partnerships and an emerging gambling-centric digital landscape, the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) has taken strides to formalize rules governing its members’ conduct in light of these changes. The envisioned groundbreaking measures can have significant repercussions throughout the broader sports landscape, redefining how sports writers approach the contentious topic of wagering.
The BBWAA Sets a New Industry Benchmark
A recent Forbes report highlighted discussions held at the Baseball Winter Meetings in Nashville, where a committee proposed updates to the BBWAA’s constitution, aiming to establish clear expectations and address potential conflicts of interest. The proposed changes anticipate scenarios where members, particularly those entrusted with voting for major awards like the MVP or Cy Young, may need to abstain if they engage in related wagering.
If adopted, these amendments would set a precedent, marking BBWAA as the first writers’ association across North America’s major sports leagues to formalize such rules concerning content and betting on the sports they cover. These regulations focus on eliminating conflicts of interest, ensuring ethical conduct among members, and safeguarding the integrity of award selections from the influence of gambling partnerships.
Instances of insiders inadvertently influencing betting lines have emerged, underscoring the necessity for such regulations. NBA insider Shams Charania tweeting about a prospect’s potential selection significantly altered betting lines, highlighting this issue. His partnership with FanDuel caused one of the first high-profile cases involving gambling-related conflicts of interest in this space.
Leading Operators Seek to Leverage the Media Space
The BBWAA’s proactive stance aims to retain public trust in the integrity of writers’ award selections as the gaming industry increasingly collaborates with sports leagues, clubs, and media outlets. This step also follows ESPN’s recent collaboration with Penn Entertainment to launch ESPN BET, a wagering-focused platform within ESPN, blurring the lines between sports reporting and gambling.
While baseball might not attract betting to the extent of basketball or football, it still sees substantial partnerships with leading operators as they aim to leverage the sport’s vast audience. However, recent fan discontent with Rob Manfred’s plans for an MLB gambling podcast revealed the contentious nature of this issue.
The BBWAA, established in 1908, remains the oldest association for sports writers. Implementing provisions to codify acceptable conduct for its members in light of evolving gambling partnerships in sports reporting can set a benchmark for other writers’ associations in other high-profile sports to address similar concerns and align with evolving industry standards.