New Jersey legislators are quickly pushing ahead with a bill that would authorize legal sports betting in the state. But while state officials and those in the gaming industry are celebrating, representatives of the major sports organizations in the United States faced harsh rebukes when they asked for a piece of the betting pie.

New Jersey integrity fees
League officials say they need integrity fees to protect their sports. But New Jersey lawmakers say the leagues are just in it for the money. (Image: Getty)

On Monday, three different legislative committees signed off on a bill that would allow sports betting both online and at racetracks and casinos for those age 21 and older. The new laws also sets an 8.5 tax rate for in-person betting, as well as 13 percent tax for online sports betting.

League Fees a Non-Starter

But the bill didnt include the integrity fee that most of the major sports leagues in the United States have requested from state legislatures. The NBA, MLB, and PGA had been trying to get 0.25 percent of the amount bet on their games: less than the one percent they had asked for in many other states, but exactly what some New Jersey lawmakers had proposed themselves back in 2014.

During a Monday hearing in Trenton, officials from the leagues implored New Jersey legislators to design a bill that included an integrity fee to help them ensure their competitions were on the level. But Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (D) was suspicious about the tools that league representatives said they wanted the state to give them.

The tool youre looking for is money, Caputo said during the hearing. And thats not going to happen. You might as well face reality.

Those comments echoed a letter that New Jersey State Senate Pres. Stephen Sweeney (D) sent to the governors and legislative leaders of all 50 states last month. In his message, Sweeney implored lawmakers not to give in to league demands for an integrity fee, noting that Nevada had never paid such a fee.

Essentially, the Leagues are asking to be paid to allow games to be played fairly, Sweeney wrote. 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.

Minor League Concerns

While money seemed to be the largest sticking point between the leagues and the state of New Jersey, there were some other issues brought up by league representatives during the hearing.

For instance, while the bill does prevent betting on high school events, as well as any college events in the state or involving New Jersey-based collegiate teams, it doesnt prevent betting on minor league sports. Former MLB pitcher Al Leiter cited this as an issue, claiming minor league players might be more susceptible to corruption than their higher-paid major league counterparts.

The bill also lacks regulations that would mandate state regulators and leagues to share information that would help them identify suspicious betting patterns or know if a game might be fixed.

Honestly, I dont care about the money, Leiter said at the hearing. I do care about my sport. I care about all sports.

Both the state Senate and Assembly will be able to give the sports betting bill a full vote on Thursday. Governor Phil Murphy could then sign the bill as early as Friday, potentially allowing bets to be taken as early as next week. That would put New Jersey right on the heels of Delaware, which allowed casinos to start taking a full range of sports bets on Tuesday.

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