Who else has enjoyed a hearty laugh about the term “integrity fees”? Our experts weigh in on pro sports leagues’ demand for a percentage of sports betting revenues.
“Integrity fees.” That’s the euphemism the pro sports industry dreamed up to justify grabbing a piece of the legal sports-betting action.
Keep in mind, this is the industry that spent decades trying to stop legal sports bets, purportedly to keep the games pure and influence-free. Not an unworthy goal, by the way, but it disregards the fact that a billion-dollar illegal industry continued to flourish, to no one’s benefit but—oh yeah, the criminals.
Anyway, the leagues lost the war, so they’re trying to win the battle, claiming they’re entitled to what amounts to a kickback from bookmakers.
The American Gaming Association isn’t having it. According to the AGA, in a recent poll only 23 percent of Americans think the leagues should collect a fee from sports bets, while 55 percent oppose it.
“The results of this research are overwhelmingly clear: consumers want legal sports betting, they believe it should be regulated by state and tribal governments and they don’t think the leagues should get a cut,” said AGA Senior VP Sara Slane.
Legendary Vegas bookmaker Vic Salerno is more blunt. “Call it what it is: a royalty fee. Who’s been protecting the integrity of sports for the past 50 years? The (legal) bookmakers.”
Salerno points out that in the 2018 NBA Finals, LeBron James played with a broken hand, a fact that the league did not disclose to the sports-loving and sports-betting public. “Where’s the integrity in something like that?”
Gaming commentator Steve Ruddock adds that integrity fees constitute “something for nothing.”
“Sports betting wasn’t created out of whole cloth on May 14, 2018,” he says. “The insinuation by the leagues that they suddenly have integrity concerns because sports betting is being moved from illegal to legal markets doesn’t stand up to the smell test.”
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