Major League Baseball is making changes to pregame protocol heading into the first season with expanded state-sponsored sports betting.
This year, clubs will be required to submit starting lineups to MLB's data operations department at least 15 minutes before they are made public in an effort by the league to reduce the value of inside information and add uniformity to how data is disseminated.
Starting lineups and umpire assignments -- two things valued by oddsmakers and bettors -- will be released first on MLB's official data feed.
In previous seasons, starting lineups were released randomly, sometimes by team social media accounts, other times by beat writers at the team clubhouses. Teams might continue to release lineups in their preferred manner, but only after submitting them to the league. When MLB confirms reception, teams may make their starting lineups public. They do not have to wait a full 15 minutes.
"We are updating a number of our procedures to reduce integrity risks associated with the expansion of sports betting in light of the Supreme Court's ruling last May," Major League Baseball said in a statement. "One new procedure is that we now ask Clubs to submit starting lineups in a uniform fashion in order to reduce the risk of confidential information being 'tipped.' This approach mirrors those of international sports leagues in more developed betting markets."
In May, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, the federal statute that restricted state-sponsored sports betting to primarily Nevada. Since the ruling, legal sportsbooks have opened in Delaware, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and West Virginia.
Major League Baseball, like many U.S. professional sports leagues and the NCAA, has been trying to determine the best approach for the new sports betting landscape. Baseball is striving to protect the integrity of the game from gambling scandals, while also looking for ways to generate revenue from the emerging regulated market.
Last week, MLB announced a wide-ranging partnership with sports data intelligence provider Sportradar that will allow official real-time statistics to be distributed to sportsbooks in regulated jurisdictions. In November, baseball partnered with MGM Resorts, making the casino giant the first official gaming and entertainment partner of MLB. Through the deal, MGM sportsbooks will have access to MLB's official data feed.
Citing integrity concerns, baseball recently submitted written requests to gaming regulators in several of the new states with sports betting, asking that sportsbooks be prohibited from taking wagers on spring training games.
"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. These games are not conducive to betting and carry heightened integrity risks, and states should not permit bookmakers to offer bets on them," the league said in a statement. "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."
New Jersey and Nevada each declined MLB's request, and sportsbooks in the states continue to take bets on spring training.