NBA, MLB criticize West Virginia’s sports betting bill

Mike Florio
ProFootball Talk on NBC Sports

Routinely criticized for being behind the times, West Virginia is getting ahead of the curve when it comes to sports betting.

In anticipation of the scuttling of the federal prohibition on expanded sports wagering, a West Virginia Senate committee has advanced a bill that, if it becomes law, would legalize sports wagering at the state’s various casinos, and via mobile apps that would be used by people located in West Virginia. Both the NBA and Major League Baseball have criticized aspects of the bill.

“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,” the NBA said in a statement. “We hope that the Legislature will examine these issues more closely and amend the bill to include the necessary safeguards.”

“Any sports betting legislation must include clear, robust and enforceable protections to mitigate any possible risks to our game,” Major League Baseball added. “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 the protections. We would be happy to work with legislators and the Lottery Commission to improve the current language.”

A significant point of contention has become the one-percent payment the sports leagues want. Instead of calling it what it is — a piece of the action — the sports leagues are characterizing it as an “integrity fee,” aimed at compensating them for the increased expenses associated with insulating their product against the scandals and other complications that can arise when gambling becomes legalized.

They have a point, but it’s still P.R. spin for wanting a cut. And they should get a cut. But they also should just admit that they want a cut, instead of cooking up a forced justification for putting out a hand and saying, “Gimme gimme.”

The NFL has yet to officially enter the fray directly. Surely, the NFL is monitoring. Surely, the NFL will be ready to join in the “gimme, gimme” chorus at the right time.

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