By Ben Fawkes
Thursday, April 12, 2018
With the sports world still awaiting the Supreme Court’s ruling on the New Jersey sports betting case, the major player associations — NFLPA, the NBPA, the NHLPA and the MLBPA — had been silent on the topic.
That changed on Thursday morning, when they released a joint statement clarifying their position on sports betting.
The statement in part reads: “The time has come to address not just who profits from sports gambling, but also the costs. Our unions have been discussing the potential impact of legalized gambling on players’ privacy and publicity rights, the integrity of our games and the volatility on our businesses. Betting on sports may become widely legal, but we cannot allow those who have lobbied the hardest for sports gambling to be the only ones controlling how it would be ushered into our businesses. The athletes must also have a seat at the table to ensure that players’ rights and the integrity of our games are protected.”
This saga all began back in 2012 when the four major sports leagues sued New Jersey governor Chris Christie after he attempted to pass a law allowing sports betting in the state. That law directly flew in the face of the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), which makes it unlawful for a state to “sponsor, operate, advertise, promote, license, or authorize by law” sports wagering. Only Nevada was grandfathered in, along with lotteries in three other states.
The case made its way through the court system before SCOTUS took the case and heard oral arguments on Dec. 4, 2017. Since the oral arguments, nearly 20 states have introduced sports betting bills, and the NBA and MLB have been proactive in asking for an “integrity fee” in many of them. The leagues are looking for a percentage of the bets made on their sport (proposals have ranged from 1 percent to .25 percent) to be their revenue in order to cover the costs of regulation and integrity monitoring that expanded sports betting would require.
A big issue for the players’ associations appears to be how that additional revenue would be split up between the leagues and players. The “publicity rights” line in the statement also could signal the major player associations looking for a cut of player proposition bets (i.e. Will Aaron Judge hit a HR? How many 3-pointers will LeBron James hit this half? etc.).
Sports betting operators say that this “integrity fee” would be prohibitive to their bottom line, as hold percentages (amount won) is typically around 5 percent of the amount bet. A integrity fee of 1 percent would therefore equate to 20 percent of revenue. And the last thing they want to do is have the legalization of sports betting in the U.S. make the illegal betting market more attractive.
The next potential date for the Supreme Court to offer an opinion on the New Jersey case is April 30.