Four Major US Players Associations On Sports Betting’s Future: ‘Athletes Must Also Have A Seat At The Table’

Written By Dustin Gouker on April 12, 2018 - Last Updated on January 13, 2022
sports betting players associations

The four biggest professional players associations in the US have released a joint statement on the future of sports betting in the country.

What the players associations said on sports betting

The four groups — representing players in the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball and the NHL — say they have been working in concert as the possibility of an expansion of legal sports gambling in the country.

That comes ahead of an expected decision in the US Supreme Court in the New Jersey sports betting case that could open up wagering in other states. Single-game wagering is currently only legal in Nevada in the US.

Here’s the statement:

“Given the pending Supreme Court decision regarding the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PAPSA), representatives of the MLBPA, NBPA, NFLPA and NHLPA have been working together on the legal, commercial, practical, and human consequences of allowing sports betting to become mainstream.

The time has come to address not just who profits from sports gambling, but also the costs. Our unions have been discussing the potential impact of legalized gambling on players’ privacy and publicity rights, the integrity of our games and the volatility on our businesses.

Betting on sports may become widely legal, but we cannot allow those who have lobbied the hardest for sports gambling to be the only ones controlling how it would be ushered into our businesses. The athletes must also have a seat at the table to ensure that players’ rights and the integrity of our games are protected.”

“The new policy stance by the  four unions, like that of others who are now lobbying across the country, may be partially bent on trying to blunt the impact of the imminent Supreme Court decision,” said Ryan Rodenberg, an associate professor at Florida State University.

Leagues vs. players associations?

Two of the over-arching leagues — the NBA and Major League Baseball — have been lobbying for the legalization of sports betting in states around the country. It’s not clear how much the leagues’ desires mesh with the players associations from this statement.

It’s likely that the player groups want to make sure they are getting a cut of any revenue that the leagues derive from sports wagering, at the top level. Leagues are asking for control over data rights and “integrity fees” from new state laws, two things from which they would directly profit.

The leagues and players associations have sometimes contentious relationships when it comes to rights and compensation. And as the leagues barnstorm around the country for sports betting legislation that is friendly to them, the players associations don’t want to be left out of the discussion.

What else do the players want?

  • “Publicity rights”: Players probably would like to benefit in some way if their names and/or likenesses are used in player proposition bets. For instance, daily fantasy sports sites like DraftKings and FanDuel use player images with the consent (and by paying) player associations. There’s also a court case — with new arguments being held today — regarding fantasy sports and college players. Players don’t currently get any type of compensation for their names being used in prop bets in Nevada.
  • “Integrity of our games”: Much like the leagues themselves, integrity is being thrown about as a reason for regulation. Of course, there is already widespread sports gambling via a thriving black market. If anything, regulated markets should help integrity in sport, simply by shifting money from the black market.
  • “Those who have lobbied the hardest for sports gambling”: It’s not clear who the PAs are talking about here. It could be the leagues, the casinos, or both, but almost certainly the latter. It also seems to indicate that they do not agree with everything — or anything — we’ve seen from sports betting laws passed in the past year (or in NJ, for that matter).
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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.

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