The sign posted on a bulletin board in the Portland Sea Dogs’ clubhouse, just outside Manager Chad Epperson’s office, is easy to spot. Players walk by it every day.

“Players don’t bet on baseball,” the sign reads.

On Tuesday, Major League Baseball banned San Diego Padres infielder Tucupita Marcano for life for betting on the sport. Four other players, including former Sea Dogs pitcher Jay Groome, were suspended one year for betting on MLB games.

Marcano became the first active major leaguer to receive a permanent ban under MLB’s gambling rules since New York Giants outfielder Jimmy O’Connell in 1924. In 1989, Pete Rose agreed to a lifetime ban after an investigation concluded he wagered on Cincinnati Reds games while serving as the club’s manager.

Groome was selected by the Boston Red Sox with the 12th overall pick in the 2016 draft. He spent the first half of the 2022 season with the Sea Dogs before being promoted to Triple-A Worcester, then was traded to the Padres on July 31, 2022. According to MLB, Groome placed 32 bets from July 22, 2020 to July 24, 2021. Twenty-four of them were on the Red Sox.

“That kind of hits home with these guys because some of these guys know him,” said Epperson, who was the manager when Groome played for the Sea Dogs. “They say ‘Oh (crap). This is real.’ Hopefully they make good choices.”


Some Sea Dog players on Thursday declined to comment on the game’s biggest gambling scandal in decades, with Elih Marrero citing his friendship with Groome as the reason. First baseman Alex Binelas said baseball’s gambling rules are made clear to players every year.

Major League Rule 21 states that any player who bets on a baseball game not connected to their club will receive a one-year suspension. But betting on a game in which the player has a duty to perform triggers a lifetime ban. The rules are posted in all major and minor league clubhouses.

“There’s really not much to it. Just meetings at the beginning of spring training, that’s really about it. It’s being smart, knowing what you can and can’t do,” Binelas said.

Binelas added that sports betting is not discussed among players.

“It’s a personal preference. It’s not something guys really talk about too much. Not in this locker room, at least,” he said.

Sports gambling is legal in 38 states and the District of Columbia. Sports betting went live in Maine on Nov. 3, 2023


As legalized sports betting gained widespread acceptance, some pro sports leagues, like the MLB, partnered with online sports books FanDuel, DraftKings and MGM. The partnerships put MLB in the delicate position of trying to maintain the integrity of the game while also benefiting financially.   

Sea Dogs first baseman Alex Binelas stands on second base while waiting for a relief pitcher to warm up during a game against the Akron RubberDucks at Hadlock Field in Portland on Thursday. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Epperson said players are told in spring training there are drastic consequences for anyone caught betting on baseball. That message was repeated this week in light of Tuesday’s suspensions, Epperson said.

“For us here, it’s on the board. We keep talking about it. This guy’s (Marcano) banned for life from baseball. It’s not worth it, guys,” Epperson said. “You can’t control everything these guys do, obviously. You just try to educate them as much as possible.”

The sign in the Sea Dogs’ clubhouse has a QR code that provides a link to MLB’s sports betting policy for minor league players. One line in the policy’s first paragraph is bold and underlined: “Please be aware that violations of Major League Rule 21 or this Policy may result in discipline up to and including permanent ineligibility from Major League and Minor League Baseball.”

Along with prohibiting betting on baseball at any level, professional or amateur, the minor league policy prohibits players from taking part in any fantasy baseball games, or making illegal bets on any sports. Minor league baseball players are allowed to wager on other sports, providing they do so legally.

Epperson said he knows some players compete in fantasy football leagues or NCAA basketball tournament pools. The players are all young men in their 20s with disposable income, a prime gambling demographic. Epperson stressed they have to know they can’t cross that line and bet on baseball, and this week’s events turn a spotlight on the consequences.

“We continue to talk to them about the consequences, what can happen if you do get caught,” Epperson said. “Is the squeeze worth the juice? In this case it’s not, ever.”

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