Through October, $1 billion was bet on baseball at Nevada's regulated sportsbooks, an all-time record, according to gaming control, and nearly double the amount that was bet in 2010. By comparison, $1.6 billion was bet on football (NFL and college) in 2015.
At a time when more money is being wagered on baseball than ever before, Major League Baseball is taking a new approach to how it keeps track of the betting on its games.
A two-hour workshop highlighting potential benefits of legal sports betting, and the technology available to protect the integrity of the games, was held Monday at Major League Baseball's winter meetings in Washington, D.C.
Major League Baseball partnered this spring with Genius Sports, a sports-integrity firm that monitors international betting markets, looking for irregularities that may indicate corruption. Headquartered in London and with office in Los Angeles, New York and Washington, D.C., Genius Sports provides MLB with market analysis, real-time alerts and other protections designed to identify betting-related corruption.
Genius Sports estimates $55 billion is bet annually on baseball throughout the world, with only a small fraction taking place in legal markets.
"[This] event was all about showcasing the proactive measures Major League Baseball is taking to safeguard the integrity of its competitions," Steven Burton, director of integrity, governance and sports partnership of Genius Sports, told ESPN in an email. "MLB is leading the way amongst the major leagues in sports integrity, and we are delighted to support them in their continued efforts to protect the league from betting-related corruption."
The partnership represents a shift in how baseball approaches sports betting, one of the game's gravest taboos for decades.
In 2012 deposition testimony, former commissioner Bud Selig called sports betting "evil" and "the deadliest of all things that can happen [to sports]." Those fears seem to have been tempered with the arrival of current commissioner Rob Manfred, who said baseball's approach to legal sports betting may need "fresh consideration." Manfred also has said that he agreed with a lot of what NBA commissioner Adam Silver wrote in his 2014 op-ed in The New York Times, calling for the legalization of sports betting.
But in late May, Manfred told The Washington Post that internal discussions on sports betting within the league "slowed" after the controversy surrounding daily fantasy sports escalated in 2015 and 2016.
Major League Baseball did not respond to requests for comment on the sports-betting workshop that took place at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, site of this week's winter meetings.
Meanwhile, the American Gaming Association, which presented at Monday's workshop, is forming a coalition and plans to begin lobbying Congress to lift the federal prohibition on state-sponsored sports betting in 2017.
"We're having good conversations with various leagues," American Gaming Association CEO and president Geoff Freeman said during his presentation at the workshop. "We're excited to work with the leagues, quietly. We want to be on the same page. Our hope is to go to Capitol Hill with a consistent message from the industry, from the leagues, from our partners, all of us, with this solution to what is obviously an emerging problem here, but also an emerging opportunity, an opportunity to regulate something that Americans clearly want to do, to protect the integrity of the games we enjoy and to build a better marketplace.
"I think things are going to go forward on Capitol Hill," Freeman added. "I expect hearings next year."