A lawmaker pushing for Connecticut sports betting legislation said legislators will reconsider the inclusion of an integrity fee to professional sports leagues.
After watching six states create regulated sports betting markets in 2018 without providing a cut to the leagues, Verrengia expects Connecticut to take a different approach this year.
“Given the time that has passed, we’re obviously going to revisit the issue of an integrity fee,” Verrengia said. “I’m not interested in an integrity fee that is just sending a check to the leagues at the end of each month.”
Connecticut almost became first with integrity fee
Before the PASPA decision that opened it up states to pursue legal sports betting, Verrengia held hearings in his Public Safety and Security Committee.
A year ago, representatives of the NBA and MLB made their case for an integrity fee at one of those hearings.
The hearing didn’t go well for the leagues, as legislators pushed back against the idea of giving the leagues a percentage of each wager. Verrengia said he wasn’t interested in “lining the pockets” of major-league sports owners.
However, in a last-ditch effort to move the bill before the legislative session ended in May, Verrengia filed amendments that would have given the leagues 0.25 percent of handle. The amendments failed and the bill didn’t pass.
Integrity fee still possible in different form
Verrengia wouldn’t support writing a royalty check to the leagues. He wouldn’t mind partnering with the leagues to put part of the money made from sports betting into a program supporting youth sports in the state.
He broached the topic of using a fee for that purpose with league representatives last year and received an encouraging response.
“We would create a sports commission including the professional sports entities,” Verrengia said. “They were all for it. They thought it was a great idea because it would benefit the state and have also help them grow their market as well. I would like to see that happen.”
Mobile wagering faces resistance
There was another late effort to authorize sports betting in Connecticut last year when then-Gov. Dannel Malloy tried to call a special legislative session to approve renegotiated tribal compacts.
If the governor’s proposal passed last year, Verrengia indicated it would have limited such betting to brick-and-mortar casinos.
With tribes wanting to keep mobile limited to on-site, Verrengia believes that the challenge will be to push for a statewide mobile platform with in-game betting.
“I’m a big proponent that any sports betting bill to be voted on would have to include a mobile platform to be used statewide,” Verrengia added. “The evidence is overwhelming that that’s where the real money is – in the mobile platform.
“Not to include it in legislation would be shortsighted on the part of the legislature.”