The question of whether US sports leagues deserve an ‘integrity fee’ from the gambling industry received a hostile response during last week’s Betting on Sports conference in London. The conference, organised by SBC Events and now the biggest betting trade event in the world, focused an entire track on the US post-PASPA sports betting market.
It was during the first debate of the day that George Rover, managing partner at Princeton Global Strategies and former deputy director at the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, articulated in no uncertain terms that the gambling industry should not pay the country’s sporting leagues a fee to maintain integrity in the newly legalised sports betting landscape.
He told delegates: “I think the leagues do have a lot of gall to ask for an integrity fee. They battled the state of New Jersey for nine years. I was there when that was occurring. Not once did they want to come to the table of the regulator or the state about resolving the issue. Not once. Total radio silence. Even after the case no conversations with regulators in the state of New Jersey to try and resolve the issues.”
The comments came after gaming and sports law attorney Daniel Wallach said that the rhetoric around the leagues’ opposition to betting needs to ‘be put to bed’ if the industry has any hopes of progressing on the issue. “League is a stakeholder now,” he stated, “and it’s the only stakeholder outside of federal law enforcement that has multi jurisdictional investigators and moderators resources at their disposal.
“The NFL, NBA, Major League Basketball, NHL and NCAA all bring something to the table that no state license holder and no state legislator can possibly match, which is the ability to investigate, monitor and provide intelligence about all these activities across state lines. The jurisdiction of the state regulator stops at that border and there is no mandatory sharing of information across those state lines.”
But Rover was unconvinced with this argument: “I think the leagues have hardly distinguished themselves in the area of investigations,” he countered. “I can point out all kinds of investigations that the leagues have done – whether a football is inflated or not with Tom Brady, the way they handled that investigation was laughable.”
However, Rover did say that his view could change if the states didn’t step up to the plate. “When it comes to dealing with integrity issues I do believe the states at some point have to prove they can handle integrity monitoring,” he continued.
“If in six-to-eight months the states aren’t doing a good job, I might have a different opinion. For the leagues now to say that they are entitled to a financial windfall, which is what I would call it, I just don’t think they have made the case and I really think they have created their own issue with not trying to work with the state of New Jersey.”