In Major League Baseball, there is a cautionary tale about the mixture of sports betting and professional sports leagues.
Many teams across the nation have their official betting partners. However, anyone affiliated with these teams or professional sports organizations is strictly forbidden from gambling on the sport to which they are connected.
That means anyone connected to Major League Baseball – say a minor league pitcher in the High-A league – can not bet on Major League Baseball games in any form or fashion either themselves or through a proxy.
Peter Bayer learned this lesson the hard way through unique circumstances while gambling with a Colorado sportsbook.
Peter Bayer’s bad bet and the resulting MLB ban
During the first country-wide shutdown related to the COVID-19 pandemic back in 2020, the MLB Minor League system did not have a season. That left an incredible amount of Minor League Baseball players without a job, contract, benefits, or income.
Essentially, the minor league system went through a nearly top to bottom restructuring and nearly folded entirely. That left all of their employees without work. Now, MLB minor league system has eliminated:
- Two minor league classifications
- 42 minor league teams
One of the players who found themselves without a contract, team, or season to play was Bayer. So in his spare time, Bayer decided to create an account for a licensed legal digital Colorado sportsbook and placed bets on MLB games.
“In the summer of 2020 during the COVID pandemic, I placed wagers on some MLB games on legal websites in Colorado,” Bayer wrote on his Twitter account. “This happened when I was affiliated with the Oakland Athletics but we were not under contract as MILB players because there was no season. All of us as minor league players were considered unemployed.”
The only problem is that he was still technically affiliated with the Oakland Athletics at the time even if he was also unemployed by the MLB. That one action has led Bayer to be on the MLB’s ineligible list for essentially the last three years.
Bayer said in his statement on his Twitter account.
“My entire life, I have spent the summers playing baseball and without competing and playing, I did not know what to do with myself. When 2020 canceled the season, a lot of us were uncertain about our careers moving forward. These were unprecedented times in which many of us weren’t thinking clearly. I made this mistake and I’ve owned up to it.”
Was Bayer in the wrong for placing bets?
This is a tough situation. Yes, Bayer was connected to the Oakland Athletics which makes this a pretty clear-cut case in terms of rules violation.
But he had no contract, no season to play in, and no idea what his future held. He was not receiving health benefits, he was not being paid. And by all accounts had been effectively laid off by Major League Baseball.
Those facts together paint a picture of understanding. While he broke a rule, this was not egregious despite the integrity of the sport of baseball. He had no ability or intention to defame the game he has played for his entire life.
This situation appears as an honest mistake. But despite that, Major League Baseball is punishing Bayer in ways they rarely punish players.
“I never once bet on baseball when physically playing (or under a player contract) or bet on it to compromise the integrity of the sport. I understand that I broke a rule and there is consequences to my actions but this has been way too extensive,” Bayer wrote. “The only MLB wagers were placed during the pandemic and during a time of great uncertainty in my career.”
Bayer’s punishment for gambling with a Colorado sportsbook
Bayer’s punishment began early in 2021 when he agreed to sign a contract with the Cincinnati Reds. But the MLB Commissioner’s office stopped him before spring training.
They alerted the Reds and Bayer himself that Bayer was under investigation and suspended immediately because he gambled on MLB games in 2020. Bayer said in the same statement:
“Before this information was found out by the MLB, I signed with the Cincinnati Reds in January of 2021. A few weeks later, I received a call from the commissioner’s office that I was going to be placed under an investigation and suspended for my actions. I ended up being placed on the MLB Ineligible List, which I still am today.”
Now, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred gave Bayer notice once again that he is suspended for the 2023 season. Bayer received a notice from Manfred that read:
“I am writing in response to your application for removal from the ineligible list. I reviewed all of the materials you submitted to me. After thorough consideration, I have decided to deny your application. You may reapply to me for a potential reinstatement after the completion of the 2023 World Series.”
That leaves Bayer in a position of waiting for the hope of being reinstated while his playing days dwindle. “It’s really unfortunate that this ends up most likely causing the end of my playing career due to being held out of the game for so long,” Bayer wrote as he ended his statement.
“Hopefully, the MLB is able to change their mind and allow me to pursue a career in the future.”
Gambling rules across all sports leagues are similar
As stated above, this is a clear rule violation when using the letter of the law. The official rule for the MLB as it relates to their players gambling on their league is:
“Any player, umpire, or Club or League official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform, shall be declared permanently ineligible.”
The National Basketball Association also has a rule against people affiliated with the league gambling on any NBA game. The policy states that players, league staff and team officials can not bet on, fix, or tip any match; advocate for others to place bets; or exercise “improper influence of manipulation”.
In the National Football League, no personnel can bet on league games. Regardless of if the bets are the results of games, scores, player performance, or any other prop bets. The word “personnel” refers to anyone and everyone working with the NFL. However, NFL players can bet on other sports while other NFL employees are not.
This is by no means a new rule or a surprise. Yes, Bayer had an unfortunate string of events that lead him to the MLB’s Ineligible List. And he has objectively been on that list for too long. But the rule is the rule and they have not changed in years across all major sports.