MLB, NBA concerned about W.Va. sports betting bills

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Professional sports leagues say there needs to be more protections within legislation to legalize sports betting at West Virginia’s five casinos, if the U.S. Supreme Court allows states to do so.

The National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball believe bills in the House of Delegates (HB 4396) and Senate (SB 415), don’t go far enough to mitigate possible risks to the game.

Dan Spillane, senior vice president and assistant general counsel of the NBA, said they want to be compensated with a one percent integrity fee.

“We’re going to have to spend more money in a world with legal sports betting. We’re going to have to do more to monitor, investigate and enforce. That’s going to be costly,” he said on Monday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

The MLB released a statement regarding the bills Monday:

“Any sports betting legislation must include clear, robust, enforceable protections to mitigate any possible risks to our game. The law quickly advancing in West Virginia unfortunately falls short of meeting those critical standards. We are hopeful the legislature will complete a significant overhaul of the law and bolster protections. We would be happy to work with legislators and the Lottery Commission to improve the current language.”

Spillane said leagues are responsible for overseeing sports betting.

“The benefits go to the gaming operators, but the risks are really on the shoulders of sports leagues. If something goes wrong in this area, if there’s a scandal, it’s our business that is going to have the biggest share of the risk — not the operators. We should be compensated for that,” he said.

He added sports betting would not be made possible without the leagues.

“The reason why sports betting can even exist is because we stage these games and we deliver a high quality product and believe that it makes sense to be compensated for that too,” Spillane said.

Mike Bass, NBA executive vice president of communications, said in a statement:

“We appreciate the legislature’s work on the subject of legalized sports betting; however, we do not believe the bill currently under consideration will achieve the critical goals of protecting consumers and the integrity of our league. We hope that the legislature will examine these issues more closely and amend the bill to include the necessary safeguards.”

Along with betting on sports events at the casinos, the bills make betting through those sites available on mobile apps for people who are physically located in West Virginia.

The sports betting would be regulated by the West Virginia Lottery.

Supporters say it would bring additional revenue to the state, especially if West Virginia gets ahead of other states.

The U.S. Supreme Court could decide to lift a federal ban on sports betting later this year in all states except for Delaware, Montana, Oregon and Nevada under the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act.

Bills at the state Capitol are both pending in the House and Senate Finance Committees.

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