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Volume 25 No. 64

Leagues and Governing Bodies

MLB has argued for a 1% cut of the proceeds if legalized sports betting expands across the country
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All the major leagues responded to the Supreme Court striking down federal restrictions against sports betting, which figures to have "far-reaching implications throughout the sports world," according to Steve Megargee of the AP. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, a supporter of legalizing sports gambling, said that his league "would 'remain active in ongoing discussions with state legislatures' about expanding wagering options." He added that the NBA would "like to see a federal framework instead of a state-by-state system." The NBA and MLB have argued in recent months for a 1% "cut of proceeds if legalized sports betting expands across the country, saying part of that money would be needed for additional compliance and enforcement efforts within the game." Plenty of leagues already have "taken steps to make sure its players are educated on the issue." The PGA Tour last year hired Genesis Sports to "help with its new 'Integrity Program' that began at the start of the year" (AP, 5/14). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Andrew Beaton reports the stances of the leagues "visibly changed even before the Supreme Court made it clear the leagues did not have a choice." Leagues believe the "integrity fee" is a "necessary trade-off for the increased administration that would be required to protect the sports and guard against anything nefarious, such as game-fixing." This idea has "gained traction and generated discord." A bill introduced in the Kansas legislature earlier this year "proposed a 0.25% fee on wagers to go back to the respective leagues" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 5/15).

Sports betting may have a positive impact on the NFL's recently sagging TV ratings
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GRIDIRON GAMBLE: ESPN's Dan Graziano said allowing sports betting is the "kind of thing that could rekindle interest" in the NFL in areas where it has not been strong lately. It could "improve TV ratings" ("NFL Live," ESPN, 5/14). In L.A., Sam Farmer writes the NFL would "welcome another way to fuel interest, particularly in light of two years of sagging TV numbers, and perhaps further inspire fans to attend games instead of consuming football from the couch." Former Fox Sports Chair David Hill said, "Fans will have skin in the game. That's the reason fantasy leagues have been so successful. That's kind of like betting lite. The fact that you'll have skin in the game makes it so much more enjoyable, especially if your call is correct" (L.A. TIMES, 5/15). In Minneapolis, Chip Scoggins notes the NFL’s popularity is "intertwined with the proliferation of fantasy football action." A person with money "riding on an outcome or a certain player’s statistics will watch an otherwise meaningless game that offers no emotional attachment" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 5/15). In Tampa, Rick Stroud notes the NFL, as much as any pro league, would see a "potential windfall of new revenue" if even 1% of legal wagering is "owed to them as an integrity fee or royalty to the league." The NFL would take on "additional expense for monitoring and enforcement." They will have to "regulate what kind of prop bets are permitted, etc." In the long term, if it were "permitted in NFL stadiums, it could help increase the game day experience" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 5/15). ESPN's Darren Woodson said, "The owners are about filling seats and getting eyes on the game. This instantly brings eyes on the game which makes pockets fatter. The business side of this is going to be coming into effect. They're going to slow pace this thing and then they'll figure it out, but they're going to make money off of this" ("NFL Live," ESPN, 5/14).

BREAKING THE ICE: NBC Sports Chicago's Pat Boyle said while the NFL "may be reluctant to embrace gambling at their venues," it is possible the NHL will say, "Hey, door's wide open. We're ready for you." NBC Sports Chicago's Charlie Roumeliotis noted the NHL "isn't the most popular among the four major sports." If the league "could get behind this, and this increases the popularity of the sport," it could be a "great for the NHL to actually embrace this opportunity and not look at it as the integrity of the game." Boyle said in-game betting will "keep the fan in the arena longer, and that's a win for the team in everything." Boyle: "That's more concession stand, that's just more time in the building, better optics for TV" ("Blackhawks Talk Podcast," NBCSPORTSCHICAGO.com, 5/14). 

TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE: USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale writes the Supreme Court's decision will "invigorate the human element" in MLB, and perhaps "drastically change the way the sport is viewed." MLB umpire Joe West said, "It scares me to death. ... People won’t have just a rooting interest in games, but now they’re gambling on them. So, if they lose their money, and they’re mad enough, anything’s liable to happen." Reds 2B Scooter Gennett: "It’s amazing what drunk fans that hate their lives will say to players even with no money on the game." Nightengale notes MLB realizes that "jumping into bed with the gambling world can be profitable." But does MLB "really want to go down this road?" The league is "powerless to stop the betting," but it can "still ask itself, is it worth the risk to tacitly endorse gambling merely for a cut of the action?" (USA TODAY, 5/15). Nightengale said, "A home plate umpire probably can change a game more than any sport. I think baseball should keep doing what it is doing and say, 'We are not accepting this. We are not embracing it'" ("High Heat," MLB Network, 5/14). 

NO ESCAPE: The AP's Tim Dahlberg wrote there is "money to be made" with legal betting, but who "makes it and how the major sports leagues are involved -- if at all -- will be a contentious battle over the coming months" (AP, 5/14). USA TODAY's Dan Wolken writes pro leagues will "use the interest in gambling as a hook to promote their product while also taking their slice of the pie to boost revenues." Sports gambling in the U.S. is about to be "bigger, better and simply a part of our lives in ways it wasn’t before" (USA TODAY, 5/15).

The new PGA Tour schedule "will look very different" when it is officially released, with at least one summer event, the Greenbrier Classic, "supposed to move to the fall" in '19, according to John Feinstein of GOLF DIGEST. There was "talk about moving" the WGC-Dell Match Play in Austin to the fall and "make it the crown jewel of the early season, but the major point of the schedule change is to keep the premier events -- notably the playoffs -- away from the NFL." The Match Play "will stay where it has been -- two weeks prior to the Masters." The WGC-Mexico Championship will follow the Genesis Open in L.A. in order to "attract more players from the end of the West Coast swing as opposed to asking them" to go L.A.-Florida-Mexico. The PGA Championship "will be the third week in May and is likely to come the week after" the AT&T Byron Nelson Championship and the week before the Charles Schwab-sponsored event at Colonial Country Club. The new Quicken Loans-sponsored Detroit event will take the place of The National "two weeks after the U.S. Open." The John Deere Classic is "scheduled to move to the Fourth of July weekend," followed by the RBC Canadian Open as the "lead-in to the British Open." The WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational in Memphis "goes into Akron’s old post-British Open slot," followed by the Wyndham Championship in Greensboro. The "lone major decision left is Houston or Minneapolis." If Houston "finds a sponsor, it could still get" the pre-British Open slot, although Minneapolis and 3M are "chomping at the bit to take it." If Houston "survives, the events that are apparently going away" are The National and the Dell Technologies Championship in Boston, the second of the four FedExCup Playoffs events (GOLFDIGEST.com, 5/14).

Guaranteed salary total for MLS players topped the $249M mark for the first time in '17
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Changes in MLS' salary structure have made the league "more attractive to young foreign stars and older U.S. players alike, resulting in deeper rosters, more exciting games and a level of play rapidly approaching that of Mexico's Liga MX," according to Kevin Baxter of the L.A. TIMES. LAFC Exec VP/Soccer Operations John Thorrington said, "Inarguably we have narrowed that gap. Look at the on-field product week in and week out and MLS is in a very different place. The types of players that are coming have a lot to do with that." Baxter noted the MLS Players Union released the first '18 survey of player salaries, which "showed the number of millionares in the league increased to 46 from 28" in '17 while the guaranteed salary total for the league's 669 players topped $249M for the first time (L.A. TIMES, 5/12). Dynamo Senior VP & GM Matt Jordan said, "There's a lot of top players who have the choice to go to China and make a ton of money. (But) It's a totally different culture, it's a totally different lifestyle." Jordan: "The one advantage we have in the MLS is that it's a very stable league, it's a very organized league -- very professional -- and it's growing. So I think you have to find players ... who can play at the highest level and come with the right attitude. It all starts with the player's attitude and their motivation to help grow the sport in that city and throughout the league" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 5/13). 

QUEEN'S FEAST? In Cincinnati, Patrick Brennan wrote at this point, most soccer fans in the city will take an MLS bid for FC Cincinnati "however they can get it, regardless of the timeline for beginning play in the league." That is the aggregate effect of "delays in the expansion process and opposition that persists to this day." But FC Cincinnati "likely sees an opportunity in joining the league" for the '19 season as "opposed to later that others don't." There is a "significant competitive advantage that could be gained by beginning play next year." MLS makes certain personnel mechanisms available to first-year teams to "help make them more competitive upon arrival." The problem FC Cincinnati faces is that "time is slipping away, and if it misses the current window of opportunity to wrap up its bid, the aforementioned spoils of the expansion process would have to be shared" in '20 with new franchises in Miami and Nashville (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 5/13). THE ATHLETIC's Mo Egger wrote he would "love for Cincinnati to land an NBA team," but wants to know if "there's truly a demand" in the market for MLS. Egger: "Does anybody feel like we're missing out?" (THEATHLETIC.com, 5/11).