America’s professional sports athletes want “a seat at the table” if the leagues for which they play continue to embrace legal sports betting.
On Thursday, the associations representing athletes from Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, the National Football League and the National Hockey League issued a joint statement revealing that they’ve been actively preparing for the legalization of sports betting in the U.S.
The full statement reads as follows (note the misspelling of the acronym for the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act):
“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 statement is a shot across the bow at the NBA, MLB and (most recently) the Professional Golf Association, which have been lobbying furiously for states to grant them certain rights regarding sports betting, including (a) an ‘integrity fee’ of up to 1% of betting handle, (b) the ability to control what type of ‘exotic’ bets are allowed, and (c) requiring bookmakers to use only league-approved data sources.
The statement is also a reminder that, should the Supreme Court issue a broad ruling that strikes down PASPA – rather than a narrower ruling that merely upholds New Jersey’s plan to roll back state-level betting prohibitions – the path toward legal betting will likely be long, arduous and replete with in-fighting among stakeholders.
If nothing else, it should make for even more colorful quotes when these individual associations negotiate their next collective bargaining agreements with their respective leagues.