N.J. lawmaker against ‘integrity fee’ for leagues in sport bets

The Supreme Court is expected to rule by June.

Assemblyman John Burzichelli (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

Assemblyman John Burzichelli (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

A top New Jersey lawmaker says his state will not provide so-called “integrity fee” payments to the major sports leagues in any bill regulating sports betting.

The U.S. Supreme Court will soon decide a court case brought by New Jersey challenging a federal law banning sports betting in all but four states.

If the court rules in New Jersey’s favor, Deputy Assembly Speaker John Burzichelli says there will be no payments to the leagues in any legislation the state enacts. Other lawmakers also oppose such payments.

“That’s not going to happen,” Burzichelli told The Associated Press. “We’re supposed to sit down and write a check to the same people who have fought us every step of the way in our effort to provide sports betting?”

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Democratic Sen. Raymond Lesniak sued the federal government in 2009 seeking to overturn the federal law restricting sports betting to states that met a 1991 deadline to legalize it: Nevada, Delaware, Montana, and Oregon. He has been among his state’s staunchest proponents of sports betting.

“The same leagues that forced New Jersey to spend millions to overcome their opposition to sports betting are going to get millions from the New Jersey treasury when we beat them in court?” he asked. “I’m from New Jersey, and I have a problem with that.”

The leagues, which once were unalterably opposed to sports betting, are seeking a percentage of revenue from the bets. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy declined comment. Messages left for the NBA, NHL, and Major League Baseball were not immediately returned.

A preliminary version of New Jersey’s bill contains a provision for such payments, but Burzichelli, a Democrat, says that won’t be part of a final bill. He said the bill is intended as a “placeholder” to enable the New Jersey Legislature to act quickly if a favorable court ruling is issued.

Dan Bryan, a spokesman for Gov. Phil Murphy, would not say whether the Democratic governor supports an integrity fee.

The bill, which is co-sponsored by fellow Democratic Assemblymen Eric Houghtaling and Joann Downey, would impose an 8 percent tax on sports betting revenue from casinos or racetracks, and 12.5 percent for sports bets taken online. But Burzichelli also said those numbers will likely change in future versions of the bill, though he could not predict what they are likely to become.

Its initial version included an annual sports betting “integrity fee” of the lesser of $7.5 million or 2.5 percent of their sports wagering revenue.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule by June.

Follow Wayne Parry at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC.

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