With all the news surrounding the prospect of legalized sports betting, there has been multiple talking heads including state representatives, casinos and the sports leagues themselves. One group that has not been particularly outspoken on the issue is the athletes themselves. Now, four major US players associations have made their stance on legal sports betting clear—they want in.
The players associations from each of the major leagues (NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA) released a joint statement expressing what they envision for a fair legal betting environment. These four groups have been working on this behind the scenes for some time and states must consider what they want in order to avoid a possible lockout situation. The PAs did not insinuate they would go that far, but anything is possible. One thing is for sure, the timing of this statement falls in line with the pending US Supreme Court decision regarding the federal ban on sports wagering.
This statement addresses several things. It starts out by saying the MLBPA, NBPA, NFLPA and NHLPA coordinated on the “legal, commercial, practical and human consequences” of letting sports gambling occur. The PAs are concerned over how legal sports betting will affect players’ privacy and publicity rights. They are also worried about the integrity of the game being compromised and how sports gambling will affect the business.
Perhaps the most interesting point of the statement is that the PAs mentions “those who have lobbied the hardest for sports gambling.” This portion likely singles out the NBA and MLB, the two major sports leagues who have been the most aggressive with sports betting legalization. The players associations do not want the leagues to control how sports gambling gets ushered in without consulting the players first.
The sports leagues are now keen on the possibility of PASPA being repealed. Now they are trying to get their affairs in order so they can get a piece of the revenue legal betting will bring. The players associations are jumping on this bandwagon so the athletes they represent can be compensated for betting. The PAs and sports leagues do not always see eye to eye on matters involving player compensation, so we do not see this ordeal playing out in a simple manner.
Another interesting point to highlight is the publicity rights the statement mentions. Players will want some type of compensation if there are names and images are being used. This is the case with DFS operators like FanDuel and DraftKings, but not in Nevada sportsbooks. It appears that the PAs do not agree with the sports betting bills that have been passed so far. They, just like the sports leagues, want language in legislative bills that aids their cause.
As if passing sports gambling legislation wasn’t tough enough, now there is another party involved with the PAs. States looking to forward sports betting bills will need to consider the interests of the leagues and the PAs. It is possible to get bills passed without appeasing any of these parties, but it will likely be difficult. Players do not often get the short end of the stick with outside deals, so it is no surprise they want in on the betting framework. We will see how the PAs statement affects future legislation.