New Jersey Democratic state senate president Steve Sweeney has issued a clarion call to all 50 US states to stand firm and reject any proposals for what the major sports leagues are ostensibly citing as an ‘integrity fee’. In a strongly worded riposte, he described the leagues’ requests for a fee in return for hosting honest games as ‘extortion.
In his letter, Sweeney wrote: “The Leagues fought with all of their resources to stop states from allowing their citizens to legally wager on sports. 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.”
Turning the leagues’ rationale on its head, he suggested that rather than encourage integrity in sports, such a fee might actually lead to doubt and suspicion. “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 favour of the more popular team — whose presence in the ‘big game’ would drive ratings and betting.”
He added: “Essentially, the leagues are asking to be paid to allow games to be played fairly. Ironically, they are calling this extortion attempt an ‘integrity fee,’ even while fully aware that providing participants a stake in the volume of betting would amount to what could more accurately be called an ‘anti-integrity fee.’ 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.”
While the debate rumbles on about a so-called integrity fee, some observers have hinted that the leagues are too far behind the play to win that battle. Furthermore, there are also questions being raised by New Jersey lawmakers over whether or not to sue for damages from some of the major sports leagues who fought to retain PASPA. That could prove to be a high stakes legal challenge with hundreds of millions of dollars going to the winner.