NBA Makes Fast Break for Taxpayer Money, Undermining State Wagering Laws
As the federal ban on sports wagering looks to be on its final legs, legislation is finally moving through the states to legalize sports betting and anticipate how to create jobs and capture revenue from this growing activity.
To quote an old impersonation of Jimmy the Greek, “Not so fast, Brent!”
Seems the biggest piece of the pie is already being demanded by the professional leagues themselves and their billionaire owners. Just this week, NBA Senior Vice President Dan Spillane testified to the New York state senate that any revenue generated from legalized betting on their contests should be distributed first to… you guessed it, the NBA itself, all to protect the “integrity” of the game. And no, that’s not a typo.
While their claim for 1% of the revenue of sports books may seem modest at first glance, it is actually a gargantuan share, almost 30 percent of all realized revenue. A legal betting house profits at best 3.5 to 5 percent of betting revenue. Giving the cash-rich leagues a significant chunk of this revenue hands a distinct competitive advantage to the $150 billion illegal betting market, underground and overseas bookies who evade regulation and provide no protections to consumers whatsoever.
The NBA’s handout demand is also a bigger chunk of revenue than would be realized by the taxpayers who pay the costs of licensing and regulating betting. In Indiana, for example, the $66 million that the NBA would profit through legalized gambling in the state would be more than twice that of additional revenue generated to the state.
Let’s not forget that the NBA, before they even see a dime from ticket sales, receives $2.6 billion per year from TV contracts alone from TNT and ESPN, and generated $5.9 billion total in revenue last year. The claim that they now need money from legalized sports wagering to protect the “integrity” of their games is laughable. If anything, it is a conflict for leagues to receive a major chunk of revenue generated solely by fans who choose to wager on games.
These are the same team owners enjoying skyrocketing ticket prices to attend their games, and who now are selling commercial billboards on team uniforms. No, they don’t need any more taxpayer or fan money to torpedo legislation that will finally bring sports wagering out of the shadows and provide reasonable regulations and true consumer protections.
Paying upfront fees to the leagues not only undermines legalized sports betting in favor of illegal operators, but it steals from taxpayers and needed state revenue in favor of wealthy owners already awash in fan cash. Somehow, they’re driving to the rim on this issue with the other hand squarely in our pockets. Consumers should reject this ridiculous payout that will kill the hope of reasonable and workable sports betting legislation.