MLB Season Delays Could Impact Sportsbooks’ Operations, But Only in the Short Term

Posted on: March 1, 2022, 09:42h. 

Last updated on: March 1, 2022, 03:46h.

MLB and the MLB Players Association continue fighting over who deserves how much money. If they don’t reach an agreement soon, sportsbooks will have to find ways to get creative.

MLB's Rob Manfred
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred speaks to reporters. The league and the MLBPA continue their fight over a revised CBA, possibly causing a delay to the upcoming season. (Image: Julio Aguilar | Getty Images)

All sports leagues are still recovering from a couple of years of underachievement. COVID-19 is the culprit for most, but MLB has made its situation worse. The season was cut short in 2020 because of disagreements, resulting in 60 instead of 162 games. But this year, owners and players are seeking to be on the same field once again.

MLB and the MLB Players Association (MLBPA) have been brass bickering over contracts since 2019. The two sides have been meeting regularly to try to come to an understanding.

Yesterday was the deadline for an agreement to be reached. But, in typical MLB fashion, there is still no conclusion.

The MLB and MLBPA have only been able to agree on one thing – to extend the negotiations through today.

MLB and MLBPA Continue Feud

Back in 2019, the MLB was brass bickering with the MLB Players Association (MLBPA) over the collective bargaining agreement (CBA), which wasn’t even up for renewal. They continued the fight in 2020, with the players’ union holding its ground.

The MLBPA didn’t give in to owners’ demands when they thought players should bend over backward for their teams. Eventually, the two sides came to an understanding that allowed for a truncated season. However, the league knew then that it was going to face a battle when it actually came time to revise the CBA.

The CBA expired last December, leading to an owner-created lockout. Since then, there hasn’t been any progress on resolving the issues, most of which center on money.

For obvious reasons, this doesn’t sit well with players. Many already took some cuts in 2020. There are other disputes, as well. But almost everything centers on who gets what amount of revenue from the game.

Sportsbooks Watching from Behind Home Plate

Baseball fans aren’t the only ones impatiently waiting to see what happens. Sportsbooks and sports bettors want to know as well. If an agreement isn’t reached today, there could be no start to Spring Training next week, and no start to the regular season at the end of the month.

The US has continued to see its sports betting market grow as new states approve betting legislation. Part of the justification of expenses by sportsbooks comes from the expected reward. However, if there’s no MLB season, a portion of the potential earnings will be lost.

There have been MLB lockouts in the past, but never one with widespread sports betting in the US. That makes it difficult to attach a number to what may be lost if the lockout destroys the season.

There are some indications, though. States like New Jersey, which has a history with sports betting, would lose the most. Matt McEwan of Sports Betting Dime told The Daily News last December that the Garden State would conceivably lose $58 million if there’s no MLB season.

MLB betting is worth hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue to sportsbooks and millions of dollars in taxes to states. However, as it stands right now, it’s not worth anything.

DraftKings sweetened its deal with MLB last year to include live streaming of games. It had to deal with a truncated season but was hopeful things would turn around this year. It could potentially lose a lot of revenue and market position if there’s no season.

The good news is that all of the sportsbooks can bounce back if MLB brass and the MLBPA don’t play ball. The past couple of years has shown that, even without standard sports fixtures, sports bettors will find a way. They will find an alternative and reallocate their spending somewhere else.

Table tennis was a big deal during the COVID-19 lockdowns. It could find renewed interest once again if MLB strikes out with the upcoming season.