Leagues pushing hard against current version of sports betting bill in WV without their provisions
Legal Sports Report

New NBA, MLB Lobbying Document Surfaces: ‘Sports Leagues Should Be Compensated’

NBA MLB lobbying WV

The NBA and Major League Baseball are ramping up their lobbying efforts in West Virginia as sports betting bills in the state started advancing quickly on Wednesday.

A new document obtained by Legal Sports Report signals what those two leagues are trying to include in WV legislation.

What the leagues are doing on sports betting now

Lobbyists for the two leagues were handing out a one-page document to lawmakers outlining their position on sports wagering this week. West Virginia is a state looking to move forward quickly with legalizing sports betting to start the year, should the US Supreme Court strike down the federal ban.

The leagues’ demands include a sports betting integrity fee, which would pay one percent of all money wagered in the state directly to leagues. That proposal for the leagues has only shown up in an actual bill in Indiana, so far. It does not appear in WV legislation as of now.

The document — entitled “Protecting the integrity of sports in a regulated sports betting market” — contained several talking points that the NBA mentioned in a hearing about the prospect of New York sports betting.

Inside the document

Among them: The desire for the leagues to get a direct cut of the legal sports betting business in the state:

Sports leagues should be compensated for their investments, risks and integrity expenses.

Sports leagues spend billions of dollars to create the products that would become the subject of legalized sports betting, and would be required to spend even more to protect and ensure integrity as the amount of gambling increases. In light of these investments, additional expenses, and risk, it is reasonable for sports leagues to receive 1% of the amount legally wagered.

Whether the integrity fee is “reasonable,” of course, is in the eye of the beholder. The integrity fee would result in about 20 percent of gaming revenue from sports betting going to leagues.

You can see the full document here.

The document does not say whether the leagues support or oppose the bill as written. But sources tell Legal Sports Report that the NBA and MLB are actively lobbying against the bill. The legislation has the support of the state’s lottery.

The leagues’ other points?

  • Leagues should be able to “opt out” of certain types of betting. That includes “in-game” betting and betting on minor league games.
  • WV should use “official league real-time data” for betting outcomes.
  • Legislation should include consumer protections including “reasonable advertising restrictions” and “self-exclusion programs for problem gamblers.”
  • Betting should be able to take place online to convert bettors that currently use offshore betting sites that operate illegally.
  • Sports betting operators must report abnormal betting patterns.

West Virginia moving quickly on sports betting

There are now Senate (S 415) and House (H 4396) versions of a sports wagering bill that passed committee hearings in both chambers on Wednesday.

The legislation easily made it out of the respective bodies’ Judiciary committees. Action in both Finance committees could take place as soon as this week or early next.

The bill would allow for wagering at the state’s five casinos, as well as the possibility of mobile wagering.

Given the pace with which things are moving — and West Virginia’s extensive preparation for these bills dating to last year — the leagues getting their way on things like the integrity fee appear to be a long shot. That’s particularly the case as neither league has a franchise in the state currently.

The leagues are lobbying either for or against sports betting bills in more than half a dozen states.

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Dustin Gouker
- Dustin Gouker has been a sports journalist for more than 15 years, working as a reporter, editor and designer -- including stops at The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner.