Lawmakers facing key decisions on sports betting rules

Professional sports leagues came out swinging Monday against New Jersey's sports betting law, largely because it doesn't compensate them for keeping watch for corruption.

But, state lawmakers brushed back those concerns, telling the leagues that such payments aren't going to happen.

New Jersey lawmakers are facing some key decisions Monday as they race to legalize sports betting after winning a case in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Members of the state Senate and Assembly are taking up a bill that would authorize sports betting.

Officials from Major League Baseball, the NBA, and the PGA Tour testified against the proposed bill. They say the leagues need the integrity fee payments, as well as additional tools like information sharing and real-time data controls to make sure betting is conducted honestly.

But, they stopped short of threatening to sue to block the law, saying they hope to bring about their desired changes through negotiation.

The integrity fee does not exist in Nevada.

Bryan Seeley, a former federal prosecutor who now serves as Senior Vice President and Deputy General Counsel for MLB, said his office was created due to a sports betting scandal: the 1919 World Series that was intentionally lost by the Chicago Black Sox in league with gamblers.

"Any law to authorize and regulate sports betting must put consumer safety and sports integrity first," he said in prepared testimony. "It must recognize that without our games and without a product that fans can trust, sports betting cannot exist. "

Dan Spillane, Senior Vice President and Assistant General Counsel for the NBA, said sports betting is a unique industry, "which builds its product entirely on another business (i.e., a sports league), imposes substantial risks on the other business, and requires the other business to spend more to protect itself, all without providing compensation or a voice in how the underlying product is used."

But Ralph Caputo, a Democratic Assemblyman and former Atlantic City casino executive, unleashed a high, hard one at the sports leagues, barely disguising his anger over their legal opposition that led to the case making it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"You guys are in it to make money," he said. "This is hypocrisy. Nine years of fighting the state of New Jersey, and you come here? It's disgraceful. Just a suggestion: You may want to write a check to the state of New Jersey for $9 million for all the money we lost" fighting the league in court.

Former New York Yankees and Mets pitcher Al Leiter said the bill would pose enormous pressure on major and minor league players to make shady bets on their own games, particularly in the low-paid minors.

"You're making $1,100 a month, and the Borgata (casino) has a product that says Leiter will throw a first pitch ball. And I threw a lot of them in my career. So my buddy says, 'Just throw a ball on the first pitch, you're not throwing the whole game.'"

The bill approved by the Assembly committee set the tax rate for casinos at 8 percent, with an additional 1.25 percent payment that would be used to help Atlantic City pay down its debt. The 1.25 percent add-on fee for tracks would be split among the host community and the county in which the track operates. Internet bets would be taxed at 13 percent.

New Jersey won a Supreme Court case last month, overturning a federal law that limited sports betting to only four states. Individual states are now free to pass laws legalizing gambling, if they desire.

New Jersey lawmakers hope to have a final bill passed and signed by the end of this week in their race to be among the first states to offer sports betting at casinos and racetracks following the court ruling. But, Delaware appears poised to be first, planning to take sports bets starting Tuesday.

Dennis Drazin, president and CEO of Darby Development LLC, which runs Monmouth park, said he hopes to start taking bets on Friday if the Legislature approved a bill the day before.

In addition to the Monmouth Park, Meadowlands and Freehold Raceway tracks, the bill would also make the former Atlantic City Race Course, in Mays Landing, eligible to offer sports betting — if it were to reopen. It closed in 2015 and needs significant work.


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