As the fate of legal sports betting is being decided by the United States Supreme Court and the legislatures of individual states such as Iowa, pro sports leagues are insisting on getting a cut of the action. The leagues aren’t specifying exactly what they will do with the money, however.
The bill in question, HSB 529, is currently being amended and deliberated in a committee of the Iowa House of Representatives. If passed in some form with or without an “integrity fee” structure, the bill would legalize betting money on sporting events within the state’s borders if the federal legislation currently making such activity illegal is rescinded.
The nine justices of the United States Supreme Court are currently crafting their decision on a case that could throw out the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), and a bill that would repeal PASPA has also been introduced in the US House.
In anticipation of either of those events, many states have already moved or are moving to put laws on the books that would regulate and tax sports betting. Iowa is one such state, and the proposed bill has drawn the attention of MLB and the NBA for one reason.
Unlike bills in other states, such as Indiana, the Iowa bill contains no provision for providing a portion of the revenue to any of the professional leagues whose games would be wagered on. The NBA has made its insistence on such a provision clear. Because such language is currently absent in the Iowa bill, both MLB and the NBA have registered their opposition, according to the Des Moines Register.
In the Register article, MLB and NBA spokesmen had the following to say:
“We support legislation that includes comprehensive protections for the integrity of our sport. We look forward to working with legislators in Iowa and elsewhere to ensure that sports betting laws include these protections,” said NBA spokesman Mike Bass.
MLB spokesman Pat Courtney said, “Sports betting legislation must include certain protections to mitigate risk to our game. We will continue to work with Iowa legislators to make sure these protections are incorporated into sports betting legislation.”
As MLB and the NBA keep their eyes on legislation of this nature around the U.S., at no time has either league laid out exactly why it needs potential millions of dollars in new revenue to ensure that its games aren’t compromised by sports betting. Neither league has been forthcoming about exactly how it would use the money to provide such assurances.
In fairness, that may be due to the fact that neither league yet has a concrete plan to address that need. However, the situation doesn’t necessarily call for a detailed strategy. At this point, when bills are in committees and the fate of Christie v. NCAA is still being deliberated in the Supreme Court, a general outline of the reasons why the leagues need the money would be acceptable. That hasn’t been provided.
The obvious concerns are ensuring coaches/players aren’t betting on their own games, and that officials aren’t influencing games in the interest of betting, either. Those are legitimate issues, but again, neither MLB nor the NBA has put a dollar figure to how much that would cost or explained why it is a cost that it would have to take on as a league.
Because of the vagueness of the statements from MLB and the NBA, their insistence on getting an “integrity fee” comes off akin to an insurance scam in which repairs are performed at a cut rate and the difference of the insurance payment pocketed.
Until the leagues are more forthcoming with specifics, their opposition to any sports betting legislation that doesn’t include an “integrity fee” seems to be lacking integrity.