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NBA & MLB won’t support sports betting bill without integrity fee

MLB and NBA want integrity fee
NBA and MLB want one percent of all bets. Source: Adweek

Another day, another US sports betting bill, but West Virginia’s proposed legislation has riled up the major sporting leagues.

The National Basketball Association (NBA) and the Major League Baseball (MLB) have slammed WV’s bills, which would legalise betting on sports in the state’s five casinos should the Supreme Court repeal the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) 1992.

Although there are two floating around parliament, with one in the House of Delegates and the other in the Senate, the NBA and MLB argue the lack of an integrity fee doesn’t do enough to protect sports.

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The idea for an integrity fee first came about when the state of Indiana included it in its bill, addressing the likelihood sports betting legalisation. Local media revealed that the NBA and MLB pressured the state to add a one percent tax on all bets, which would flow into sporting leagues.

NBA General Council, Dan Spillane, confirmed the reports in a written testimony addressed at the Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee, held in New York to discuss the potential of legalising sports betting in the state. Spillane revealed that the NBA was not opposed to sanctioning sportsbooks on a state-by-state basis, on the condition specific provisions are included, like the integrity fee.

Both the NBA and the MLB have taken issue with the lack of integrity fee included in the two WV bills, arguing the legislation falls short of their goal to protect their respective leagues.

“Any sports betting legislation must include clear, robust, enforceable protections to mitigate any possible risks to our game,” the MLB said in a statement.

“We appreciate the legislature’s work on the subject of legalized sports betting; however, we do not believe the bill currently under consideration will achieve the critical goals of protecting consumers and the integrity of our league,” the NBA added in a statement of its own.

The two leagues are calling upon the state’s legislature to review the bills and make necessary amendments to meet their contractual expectations. They added that they would be happy to work with lawmakers and the appropriate regulatory bodies, including the West Virginia Lottery, to “improve the current language”.

In other words, add in the integrity fee.

The American Gaming Association (AGA), a pioneer in lobbying the general public to get on board with sports betting due to the hundreds of billions of dollars wagered illegally, disapproves of the fee.

AGA President and CEO, Geoff Freeman, said that it’s happy the NBA has come on board with legalising sports betting in America but eliminating the illegal market and protecting consumers “does not include transferring money from bettors to multi-billion dollar sports leagues.”

The AGA argues that it’s not viable since a Nevada sportsbook only makes 3.5 to 5 percent in revenue, and a one percent integrity fee on all money wagered by Americans would amount to 20-29 percent of total revenue.

It also believes that the taxed money would detract from the amount taxable by state governments, which “fund vital community services.”

Those in favour of legalising sports betting in WV argue it would deliver revenue to the state, suggesting those first to do so will benefit the most.

More than 20 states are reportedly preparing for the US Supreme Court to lift a federal ban on sports betting this year. The remaining states would join the likes of Nevada, Delaware, Oregon and Montana with these states amending laws before the enactment of PASPA.