While professional North American sports leagues have historically been against sports betting, the NBA under the leadership of commissioner Adam Silver has arguably been the most radical, supporting the movement with an eye on heavily regulating the market. The NBA and MLB have both expressed a desire to have operators of sportsbooks to pay them a 1 percent integrity fee of total bet amounts.
The NBA has previously defended the reasoning behind the 1 percent fee, including costly compliance measures to mitigate the risk of betting scandals.
In recent testimony submitted to New York State, Dan Spillane, NBA senior vice president and assistant general counsel for league governance and policy argued in favor of a legalized sports betting model in the state that could be used as a model across the country. "Our conclusion is that the time has come for a different approach that gives sports fans a safe and legal way to wager on sporting events while protecting the integrity of the underlying competitions," Spillane stated.
But he argued in his testimony that "Without our games and fans, there could be no sports betting. And if sports betting becomes legal in New York and other states, sports leagues will need to invest more in compliance and enforcement, including bet monitoring, investigations, and education. To compensate leagues for the risk and expense created by betting and the commercial value our product creates for betting operators, we believe it is reasonable for operators to pay each league 1% of the total amount bet on its games."
The NBA has stated that this is a similar approach to legally-regulated sports betting in other international jurisdictions, such as France and Australia.
Dr. Laila Mintas of Sportradar, a company that provides data to the NFL, NBA, NHL and several foreign betting operators, believes that this will add to the challenges of ushering gamblers into the regulated market. "If you put too much burden on the [legal bookmakers], they will not be able to compete with the offshore markets," Mintas said during the same panel discussion with Ma at the MIT Sloan conference.
The argument does cut both ways. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred this week came out against a legalized sports gambling bill advancing in West Virginia, saying "I want to be clear about this -- we are not opposed to the idea of West Virginia passing a sports betting bill. We'd just like them to pass one that creates a framework that protects the integrity, recognizes the variety of interests at play here and quite frankly puts the state in a position to maximize the revenue return from it."
And the integrity fee is only one of many challenges that will need to be weighed by all the interested parties to make legalized sports betting work as a business model. Mintas noted that setting taxes at a fair rate, for example, is another key issue. The league also has a fair case to make for the value of authentic league data to assist bettors and operators (and states) in a legalized framework.
A recent survey found that 43 percent of Americans have placed a wager on an NBA game in the past, the second-highest mark among all sports. 78 percent of people have placed a bet on a game in the NFL, a league that has publicly tiptoed around the issue of sports betting.