Notes: A’s request to not play in Las Vegas after move to Vegas, MLB gambling

The A’s haven’t even moved to Sacramento, never mind Las Vegas, and they’re already trying to skip playing home games in Vegas. Plus some thoughts on MLB and “mixed messaging” regarding gambling.

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According to a report from the Nevada Independent, the A’s proposal for their 30-year non-relocation agreement requests up allowing up to eight home games per year to be played at neutral sites. So, not the Las Vegas ballpark. Sure, being able to go to London and play or what have you can be a thing MLB teams do, but up to eight per year is a lot, and the A’s want to do it in order to build their brand.

To be fair, their brand is in the toilet, but hey things are more complicated than what the whims of the A’s suggest. Which is pretty normal, really.

Stadium Authority Chairman Steve Hill said negotiations with A’s concerning the non-relocation agreement are ongoing, but the number of home games away from Las Vegas agreed upon will affect the bonding capacity for the stadium, which stands at $120 million.

Hill, who is also the CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, suggested the team could reduce its requested number of games to ensure the bonding capacity needed to finance stadium construction is not threatened.“If you eliminate 10 percent of the games that will be played at the stadium, chances are you’re going to eliminate about 10 percent of that bonding capacity,” Hill said in a Monday interview.

Jeremy Koo, a Sacramento-based attorney, A’s fan and an opponent of the team’s move to Las Vegas, analyzed the economic impact of the lost home games and said the eight games were more than double the number of relocated home games that Major League Baseball permitted in similar agreements involving other teams. He estimated it would result in annual projected losses of between $2.6 million and $3 million in incremental tax revenue and between $65 million and $75 million in incremental spending.

You know it’s bad when Steve Hill, an unregistered lobbyist who has been very much Team A’s to this point, is publicly pointing out that this is not a good idea.

None of this hurts my belief that the A’s never wanted to go to Vegas in the first place, but when Oakland reacted the (completely understandable) way that they did to news that the A’s had agreed to a land deal there, it kind of got them stuck. It’s not the first time I’ve said this, but the A’s are either attempting to sabotage their own relocation to Vegas, or are just stupid enough about everything they’re doing that it’ll be the result they accidentally bring about.

Sacramento A’s? Maybe they’ll have to append that location to the name a few years from now after all.

This week, Major League Baseball banned Padres’ minor leaguer Tucupita Marcano for life from the league, and handed out a bunch of one-year suspensions to others, for gambling on MLB games. Marcano actually bet on his own team’s games while on the injured list — the Pirates, at the time — while the other four players bet on the games of other teams, hence the lesser suspensions.

There’s been a lot of talk about how this was inevitable, with MLB in bed with sports books and their presence so all-encompassing on broadcasts. And I’m sympathetic to that, believing that this whole legal sports betting thing that’s emerged like it has the last few years is a net societal negative, and MLB has certainly played a role in the legalization and normalization of the whole enterprise.

However! There’s another conversation happening that says MLB is engaged in “mixed messaging” given their promotion of legal sports betting and their punishment of players for betting on sports. This is nonsense. It’s infantilizing to act as if these aren’t adults with the ability to make decisions, and the only thing these players were confused about was whether or not they’d be caught for making bets they knew they weren’t supposed to be making.

There are two rules to follow if you’re an MLB player who is going to make bets: do it through legal channels, i.e. don’t pull a David Fletcher and gamble through an illegal bookie, and two, don’t bet on baseball games. There are so many sports out there. So many! Did you know that there’s a Team USA cricket club playing meaningful international games? Cricket! In the United States! Incredible. Bet on that. Bet on the NBA, bet on the WNBA, bet on the NFL, MLS, the EPL, bet on professional wrestling if you’re that much of a sicko. Don’t bet on Major League Baseball games, though: it’s the singular verboten bet, and these players knew that. There was no mixed messaging there, they simply went against the very old rule introduced over a century ago to keep the integrity of the game intact, a rule that’s posted all over clubhouses in multiple languages and explained every spring once again, just in case no one stops to read.

Now, do I believe MLB deserves scrutiny for their association with these legal sports books? You bet*. Hand me a pitchfork, grab me a torch, let’s angry mob this up. The viewing experience is worse, the proliferation of sports gambling is a predatory problem, the normalization of it all a net negative for society. And I say this as someone who enjoys a trip to Las Vegas to play cards and craps. I play a gacha game, too, that doesn’t mean I believe they’re a positive force in the world. But my issue here is with the specific idea that MLB is guilty of sending mixed signals. The rule is the rule, the rule has been the rule for ages. Let’s focus, instead, on the real problems that are going to emerge from this, that MLB will be more to blame for.

Like, say, the fact these one-year bans might not be enough to to dissuade other players in the future from betting on MLB games, which could end up leading to MLB having its own Jontay Porter situation, with a very organized gambling ring setup that does, in fact, impact games. There’s a balance to worry about here, given that gambling isn’t illegal in the way it used to be, so maybe the punishments shouldn’t immediately ramp up to lifetime bans, but at the same time, MLB should worry a bit more about the game’s integrity than they are. Maybe they’re concerned with that now, after seeing five players already caught for gambling, but we’ll have to see.


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