As the United States Supreme Court prepares to hear a case that will shape the future of legal sports betting in America, Major League Baseball is attempting to position itself to have a say on the issue.
"If there's going to be a change in the regulatory structure with respects to sports gambling, we needed to be in a position to meaningfully engage and shape, try to shape what the new regulatory scheme looks like," commissioner Rob Manfred told the Baseball Writers Association of America on Tuesday. "We're in the process of talking to our owners and figuring out where we want to be in the event that there is in fact a significant change coming."
Manfred's comments are the first to come from one of the plaintiff sports leagues since the Supreme Court announced in late June that it would review New Jersey's appeal of a district court ruling that prevented the state from moving forward with plans to offer legal sports betting at its casinos and racetracks.
Major League Baseball, along with the NCAA, NFL and NHL, sued New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in Aug. 2012, setting off a legal saga that is heading into its fifth year.
The first briefs in the Supreme Court review are due Aug. 10, and oral arguments are expected to take place in late fall or early next year.
The case is centered on the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, the federal prohibition on state-sponsored sports betting.
Major League Baseball adamantly opposed expanding legal sports betting in the U.S. for decades. In deposition testimony early in the New Jersey case, former MLB commissioner Bud Selig said that sports gambling was "Evil, creates doubt and destroys your sport."
Manfred, who succeeded Selig in 2015, has slowly begun to pivot on the issue, aligning baseball with NBA commissioner Adam Silver. In November 2014, Silver wrote an op-ed in The New York Times, calling for Congress to create a federal regulatory framework that would allow states to legalize sports betting.
However, the NCAA and NFL remain publicly opposed to expanding legal sports betting. The NHL has remained mostly quiet on the issue in recent years.
Reporting from The Associated Press contributed reporting to this story.