ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- A top New Jersey lawmaker is urging all 50 states to reject so-called "integrity fee" payments to professional sports leagues in any sports betting legislation they enact.
Democratic state Senate President Steve Sweeney said Wednesday it is "extortion" for the leagues to demand money in return for hosting honest games after the U.S. Supreme Court last week allowed states to legalize sports betting following a legal fight led by New Jersey.
Sweeney released a copy of a letter that he had sent two days earlier to governors and legislative leaders in each state detailing how New Jersey had spent years and $10 million in legal fees fighting to overturn a federal law that had banned sports betting in all but four states.
In a statement late Wednesday night, the NBA defended its position, saying its games are the foundation of what will be bet on.
"We will continue to collaborate with states on a regulated framework that ensures the protection of our fans and the integrity of our games," NBA spokesman Mike Bass told The Associated Press. "As the intellectual property creators for this content, our games serve as the foundation for legalized sports betting, providing casinos the ability to earn revenue off our games, while we bear all of the risk that accompanies sports betting and will incur additional expenses to expand our existing compliance and enforcement programs.
"As a result, we believe it is reasonable for casinos to compensate the NBA with a small percentage of the total amount bet on our games," he added.
Major League Baseball said in a statement Wednesday that it will focus on "developing meaningful partnerships" with state governments and betting operators.
Representatives of the NHL and NFL did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday.
The leagues are seeking payments from states or sports betting providers to help pay for the cost of making sure their games remain free from cheating. Many states vehemently oppose this demand, although some have shown willingness to negotiate.
"Essentially, the leagues are asking to be paid to allow games to be played fairly,'' Sweeney wrote. "Ironically, they are calling this extortion attempt an `integrity fee,' even while fully aware that providing participants a stake in the volume of betting would amount to what could more accurately be called an 'anti-integrity fee.'
"And their demand begs the question of what they would now start doing to preserve the integrity of their games that they have not been doing for years,'' Sweeney added.
The NFL wants Congress to pass federal legislation regulating sports betting, which could include a determination on whether the leagues should get such payments.
Sweeney noted that neither Nevada, where sports betting has been done for years, nor any other state has ever paid the leagues an integrity fee. Having spent millions to overturn the law, Sweeney said, New Jersey will not put itself at a disadvantage "by being the only state to pay the League extortion.''
Sweeney released his letter on the same day that European bookmaker Paddy Power Betfair merged with U.S. daily fantasy sports provider FanDuel, a merger made with the U.S. sports betting market in mind.
Peter Jackson, CEO of Paddy Power Betfair, said the deal positions the new company to do well in the nascent market in America.
"This combination creates the industry's largest online business in the U.S., with a large sports-focused customer base and an extensive nationwide footprint,'' he said.