The state that successfully waged a legal battle against all sports leagues to secure for all states the ability to have gambling on all sports now has the sports leagues trying a different approach.
Yes, they want their integrity fee in New Jersey.
Via NJ.com, the NBA, MLB, and PGA spent Thursday lobbying New Jersey legislators for the one-percent cut that those leagues have tried to get in other states. Baseball has enlisted (paid, presumably) former pitcher Al Leiter to assist.
It may not matter. Senate President Stephen Sweeney (pictured) calls the request for an integrity fee an effort at extortion.
“The leagues fought with all of their resources to stop states from allowing their citizens to legally wager on sports,” Sweeney recently wrote in a letter to governors and key lawmakers in all states, urging them to refuse to pay the fee. “Now that their efforts have been ultimately unsuccessful, they wish themselves to make ‘the fast buck’ and to ‘get something for nothing.’
“Essentially, the Leagues are asking to be paid to allow games to be played fairly. And their demand begs the question of what they would now start doing to preserve the integrity of their games that they have not been doing for years.”
Amen to that. And amen to this concern from Sweeney about how an integrity fee could actually harm the integrity of the sports that receive it.
“Taking the leagues at their word, giving them a ‘piece of the action,’ would make suspicions grow whenever turning-point calls in close games go in favor of the more popular team — whose presence in the ‘big game’ would drive ratings and betting,” Sweeney wrote.
Even without betting, plenty of fans think that the leagues “want” certain teams to make the playoffs and then to advance in the postseason. When the payoff isn’t simply increased ratings but increased bets from which the sports leagues receive a cut, those suspicions will grow.
The NFL continues to not be part of the state-to-state effort to secure an integrity fee. Instead, the NFL will be trying to lobby Congress for a nationwide regulatory scheme that gives the sports leagues payment under a less awkward label than “integrity fee.”