Just a few days ago, a top lawmaker in New Jersey called for all governors to reject the efforts by pro sports leagues to have an “integrity fee” on sports betting revenue included in the various states’ sports wagering laws. State Senate President Steve Sweeney, the lawmaker who also happens to have championed the state’s efforts to have the federal ban on sports betting overturned, said that the demands by the leagues are tantamount to “extortion.”
“Essentially, the leagues are asking to be paid to allow games to be played fairly,” Sweeney wrote. “Ironically, they are calling this extortion attempt an `integrity fee,’ even while fully aware that providing participants a stake in the volume of betting would amount to what could more accurately be called an ‘anti-integrity fee.’”
Sweeney expressed concern that the leagues had blatantly shifted their focus on getting a piece of the sports betting pie instead of concentrating on the integrity of their games. The lawmaker’s sentiments are quite justifiable especially considering the fact that, prior to realizing the inevitability of the abolishment of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), the leagues had spent millions of dollars fighting against the sports betting laws in New Jersey.
“The Leagues fought with all of their resources to stop states from allowing their citizens to legally wager on sports,” Sweeney wrote in a letter that was addressed to the governors and lawmakers in all 50 states. “Now that their efforts have been ultimately unsuccessful they wish themselves to make ‘the fast buck’ and to ‘get something for nothing.’ Essentially, the Leagues are asking to be paid to allow games to be played fairly…. Taking the Leagues at their word, giving them a ‘piece of the action,’ would make suspicions grow whenever turning-point calls in close games go in favor of the more popular team — whose presence in the ‘big game’ would drive ratings and betting.”
New Jersey, however, chose to take a different approach – the state introduced a new bill with a proposed integrity fee, only that its version of the integrity fee is completely different from the ones in other bills and the one that the professional sports leagues have been lobbying for.
What It Entails
The proposed integrity fee, called the Sports Wagering Integrity Fund, diverges from the other bills mostly because it will be controlled by the state instead of the leagues. The idea is to bypass the pro sports leagues’ push for the 1 percent integrity fee on handles while at the same time offering them an alternative to ensure that do not miss out entirely on the fund’s coffers.
The draft bill states that all the money deposited into the Sports Wagering Integrity Fund will be channeled towards the recovery of any costs and expenses incurred during investigations that will be carried out in order to maintain the integrity of sports betting.