Pro Sports Leagues Show Unified Front If Legalized Sports Betting Happens

Posted on April 17, 2018

This past week, the players associations from the NBA, the NFL, MLB, and the NHL released a joint statement of their positions on sports betting. Concurrently, the PGA Tour also issued a statement to clarify its position on the matter.

All of these statements come as a US Supreme Court decision on NJ sports betting looms. Although the court’s opinion on Murphy vs. NCAA (formerly Christie vs. NCAAwill likely come in the summer, the justices could release their findings at any time.

The content of the two statements boils down to a unified concept. Each group wants to share in the revenue and control of the activities surrounding legal sports betting.

Everyone keeps using the word “integrity”

A common theme in both statements, and in statements made by individual leagues, is that the leagues must act to protect the integrity of their respective games. The allegation is that a legal sports betting infrastructure would have a tangible impact on match outcomes if left unchecked.

So perilous is this risk that two leagues — the NBA and MLB — have proposed that they should receive “integrity fees.” These fees would amount to a percentage of the handle or the total amount wagered for any particular contest.

The rationale for such a fee is to allow the leagues to exercise greater control over its products. Leagues would be able to hire regulators and other watchdogs to combat increased corruption.

The PGA Tour seeks a similar fee structure. It also wants control of the types of wagering and the data sources for wagers on PGA contests.

In fact, the other main point of contention for all the leagues is regarding the data source for their respective contests. Every league wants the power to designate its official data provider.

Echoing their other arguments, the leagues claim this need is to ensure the integrity and accuracy of reporting on its events. However, were they to be armed with that power, the leagues would have the ability to control the type and scope of wagers on matches.

Potentially, they could effectively shut down wagering completely. They would also have the ability to quietly extort payments from bookmakers, data companies, and anyone else who stands to profit from game-based information.

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It’s just about money

While the leagues’ commitments to athletic purity are touching, they don’t hold up to any kind of analysis. Leagues are not regulatory bodies. They are neither empowered nor equipped to ensure fair outcomes for the purposes of independent wagering.

Furthermore, to claim that a framework of wagering would affect the outcomes of games by itself is completely ludicrous. If that were the case, the existing framework in Nevada would already have tangibly changed the course of events.

Data claims are also based on the faulty premise that leagues own the results of their contests. In fact, there are direct legal findings to the contrary.

At the end of the day, leagues (and players associations) arguments come down to a desire for money. After all, the sports leagues are businesses like any others. Legal sports betting in New Jersey and elsewhere means a river of money entering the economy.

So, the leagues just want a piece of the action — even if it doesn’t make any sense why they should get one.

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Bart Shirley

Bart Shirley is a writer and poker player from Houston, Texas. When he's not teaching high school math and business, Bart writes about the NJ online casino industry and US online poker. He has a master's degree in business administration from Texas Christian University and a degree in English from Texas A&M.

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