Until last week, the players’ associations from the MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL had been silent about their position on sports betting. It was a curious position considering at least three of the leagues have expressed interest in raking in an integrity fee that would bring a 1% cut of all bets taken on each league’s games.
On April 12, the players’ associations broke that silence and they didn’t mince their words. Here is the players’ statement, which we’ll break down afterward:
“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 associations have been working together
The odd silence coming from the players’ unions was, in fact, an aberration. Associations from the MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL were in talks with each other, according to this statement. They’ve been going back and forth about the “legal, commercial, practical and human consequences of allowing sports betting to become mainstream.”
The legal and commercial part we get. They’ve got to understand how state sports betting laws will affect game wagers. They also need to be well-versed in how each state’s legislation and gaming divisions enforce laws about age and location restrictions.
Practically speaking, they need to be clear on exactly how bets are presented and made, how the money is processed and how it gets into the league’s pockets, provided the leagues work out a deal with states.
The human consequences are important too, but, our guess is that the focus is on the first two aspects of sports betting.
Discussions about the potential of legalized gambling
From a player’s perspective, their value and brand power go up when sports gambling is legalized. Bettors putting their money on the performance of individual players will be more interested in players that outside of their local market or not a part of their favorite team.
The players also need to be concerned about (legal) wild swings in fortunes as the result of their games, as well as the possibility of players being on the take and throwing games.
These are legit concerns but the heart of their argument goes beyond these issues.
Unions don’t want leagues, casinos getting all the benefits
The final part of their statement takes aim at, most likely, the league and casinos who stand to benefit the most from legal sports betting.
As they have in past negotiations with their leagues, players want a seat at the table when it comes to formulating agreements between states, leagues and the casinos.
Their demand isn’t misguided, either. In March, an anonymous NFL exec was quoted as saying that the league should get a cut of wagers because they make the product on which people are placing bets.