MLB bans player for life for gambling: U-M expert weighs in


Earlier this week Major League Baseball banned San Diego Padre Tucupita Marcano for life for betting on his own team-the first time a player has been banned for life since Pete Rose in 1989.

The infielder placed bets on baseball games involving the Pittsburgh Pirates-for whom he played at the time-while on the injured list during the 2023 season. Four other players, including three minor leaguers, who bet on teams they weren’t playing for were suspended for one year.

Michal Lorenc , clinical assistant professor of sport management at the University of Michigan School of Kinesiology, discusses the implications. Lorenc’s expertise includes sports marketing in the digital age, digital marketing, social media, video on demand, web-based content distribution and monetization. He co-owns AFC Ann Arbor, a minor league soccer team, and co-founded the Mighty Oak Youth Foundation, which uses soccer and sport to address societal inequities.

What might this mean for major and minor league sports?

The implications for both minor and major leagues are multifaceted. Financially, leagues and teams could benefit significantly from the revenues generated through partnerships with betting companies and licensing agreements. On the flip side, there could be increased scrutiny on the influence of betting on game outcomes and player performance.

For minor leagues, the impact might also include increased visibility and fan engagement through betting platforms, potentially driving higher attendance and interest. However, these leagues might also face greater challenges in monitoring and regulating betting to prevent corruption, given the profile of their players and their typically smaller operational budgets. Minor league sports are harder to monitor and players might be willing to risk more to make a quick buck. They don’t have as much to lose as major league players with multi million dollar contracts.

Overall, the integration of sports betting into professional sports will require careful consideration and regulation to balance economic benefits with the risk of compromising the integrity of sports.

Will the rise and ease of sports betting see more professional athletes getting into gambling trouble?

The rise and ease of sports betting may indeed increase short-term risk of professional athletes getting into gambling trouble. The increasing accessibility and normalization of sports betting can tempt some athletes, especially if they believe they can avoid detection. Strict enforcement of rules and educational programs are essential to mitigate this risk.

Do you think the leagues will ease their betting policies at some point?

Sports betting is here to stay and over the next few years we will see a number of changes and adjustments to betting policies and practices. Some of the rules will likely be relaxed (complete ban on athletes betting on sports-except their own leagues-for example). Others, such as marketing and advertising of sports betting, will likely be enhanced as we see it happening in the U.K. and other markets that are more mature when it comes to legal sports betting.

Any easing of policies would need to be balanced carefully with measures to ensure the integrity of the sport remains intact. Enhanced monitoring and transparency might be introduced alongside any liberalization of betting policies.