NEWS 13 February 2018
Major League Baseball opposes West Virginia sports betting bill
By Robert Simmons
Major League Baseball has become the latest US sporting association to weigh in on prospective sports betting in the US, publically voicing its opposition to efforts to legalise sports betting in West Virginia.
Legislators in the state are currently debating Senate Bill 415, which would allow sports betting in the state, placing it under the regulatory purview of the West Virginia lottery.
Senate Bill 415 allows the states five gaming facilities to offer sports betting on pro and collegiate sports subject to a 10% taxation rate on their gross gaming revenue.
It also sets up a licensing structure, with application fees of $250,000 and licence renewal fees of $100,000. The bill sets a minimum age of 21 for gambling and sets regulations on integrity for sporting events.
In a statement, the MLB said: “Any sports betting legislation must include clear, robust, enforceable protections to mitigate any possible risks to our game. The law quickly advancing in West Virginia unfortunately falls short of meeting those critical standards.
“We are hopeful the legislature will complete a significant overhaul of the law and bolster protections. We would be happy to work with legislators and the Lottery Commission to improve the current language.”
In a change of tone from its earlier testimony during similar efforts in New York, the National Basketball Association (NBA) also denounced the bill in a written statement, saying: “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. We hope that the Legislature will examine these issues more closely and amend the bill to include the necessary safeguards.”
A key element in this debate is the presence of the so called integrity fee, which in the opinions of both the NBA and MLB would need to be paid by sports betting operators in order to make sports betting viable. The NBA argued for a 1% integrity fee at hearings in New York, with the money going towards compliance, enforcement, monitoring, investigations and education.
NBA assistant general counsel Dan Spillane attempted to justify this requirement in a radio interview with WV Metro News saying: “We invest billions and billions of dollars into creating a quality product, into policing our sport, into making this something that fans are excited in and want to watch. And that’s really the backbone of sports betting.
“The reason why sports betting can even exist is because we stage these games and deliver a high-quality product. And think it makes sense to be compensated for that, too.”
This is an argument that will run and run in a number of states over the coming months until the Supreme Court gives its final ruling, then the real work begins.