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MLB season starts late next month

Major League Baseball owners and players aren’t the only ones hoping to salvage the 2020 season.

Bettors wagered an all-time record $1.1 billion on MLB last season, Nevada Gaming Control Board senior analyst Michael Lawton said Monday.

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“It’s not as big as, obviously, football; and it trails basketball as well,” Lawton said. “But it carries us through the summer. It’s the third-largest part of our sports-betting puzzle — it’s important.”

Which is why sportsbook operators statewide have to be encouraged about talks of a 60-game campaign, which would be the game’s shortest season since 1878.

Lawton said baseball represented 21 percent of sports book volume and 17.4 percent of total sports pool win. A record $57 million was won by Nevada sports books in 2019. From a tax perspective, Lawton added, that translates to roughly $3.9 million in tax revenue for the state.

The MLB Players Association said in a statement on Monday the “board reaffirmed the players’ eagerness to return to work as soon and as safely as possible.” With a need for three days of coronavirus testing and 21 days of workouts, Opening Day likely would be during the final week of July if an agreement can be made. The date of July 24 to be Opening Day has been widely reported.

Jeff Sherman, VP of Risk Management at the Westgate’s SuperBook, said he is hoping baseball will finally come with a plan for reopening, like the NBA and NHL have done, as it would allow him to post future odds. The SuperBook has been able to post conference and championship odds for both hockey and basketball, generating an early interest for the postseason.

“We’re already seeing some play on that, especially since we opened and we have some counter business now,” Sherman said. “I think some people were waiting where they could get a larger wager over the counter.”

Sherman pointed out since NHL and NBA won’t be starting until closer to August, and baseball still negotiating and potentially missing July, an overall intake would remain minimal compared to what the books have seen in prior years.

“We’re going to have what we think will be a record August because you’re talking NBA and NHL playoffs, along with football getting going,” Sherman said. “An August that was somewhat tempered with just NFL preseason in prior years, now you’re gonna have some postseason of some major sports.”

Conversely, William Hill director of trading Nick Bogdanovich remains cautious, saying he isn’t “holding my breath” when it comes to the return of hockey and basketball. But he did say those two sports would ease the burden of not having baseball to book if the season was canceled.

“We could survive a year if NHL and NBA playoffs got going and went completely through,” Bogdanovich said. “We could live without baseball, just because everything else has sort of picked up because of the lack of it. People are sending their dollars to UFC, they’re sending their dollars to golf, they’re sending their dollars to NASCAR. Certainly, if we had our druthers we’d like a baseball season. It’s one of the ‘Big three.’”

Bogdanovich said Korean baseball has remained popular at William Hill, and it’s been one of the sports that has taught him after 34 years in the business, you’ll never know the attraction of a sport until you put it on the board.

“There’s probably times I’ve said, ‘Don’t book that, there won’t be any action,’ so I guess the moral of the story is until you try it you won’t know,” Bogdanovich said. “Obviously, Russian ping pong is the poster child for ‘Put it up, it may stick.’ South Korean baseball, same thing. “South Korean baseball has been great. It’s picked up. People are attracted to it. They’re playing it every day. They’ve taken to the South Korean baseball just fine. I haven’t been able to monitor it, I just know when I come in the morning the handle is outstanding.”

Nothing close to the billion-dollar number Lawton revealed, and likely nothing close to what an abbreviated season would produce. Until then, everyone awaits the most anticipated two words from behind the plate: “Play Ball!” late next month.