NBA Players Group Is Still Fishing For Free Sports Betting Money

Posted on October 28, 2019

Submissions during the Illinois sports betting comments reveal a variety of opinions. Among them is the issue of royalties on Illinois sports betting revenues that one athlete organization is keeping alive.

The National Basketball Players Association, the union for NBA players, filed a comment with the Illinois Gaming Board. While it did so in conjunction with other athlete labor unions, it stands out in one particular way.

What makes the NBPA’s Illinois sports betting comments unique

The unions for pro football, soccer and hockey players joined the NBPA in the letter to the IGB. The other three associations differentiated themselves from the NBPA in one key way, however.

That point of contention is a potential legal requirement forcing future legal sportsbooks in Illinois to pay a royalty to the NBPA. Only the NBPA is pressing for that.

The comment states exactly why the other associations have relented on this point. The resistance to such a requirement for legal sportsbooks in other states has been robust.

Because of that, more than just athlete unions have given up on the idea. The comments also include a joint statement from MLB, the NBA and the PGA Tour. The comments from those leagues make no mention of a royalty.

Leagues such as those have focused instead on lobbying for the inclusion of official data mandates. They have been much more successful in that regard, although that’s been limited to in-game wagering for the most part so far.

One of the most prominent data providers in the world, Sportradar, also got its two cents in.

Sportradar echoes others’ concerns on licensing cost

Five of Chicago’s professional sports franchises submitted a joint comment stating that the cost of acquiring a license to operate a sportsbook is too high, among other things. Sportradar, one of the world’s premier data providers, echoed that sentiment.

Sportradar’s comments mostly revolved around the redundancy of having to purchase two licenses from the state to offer all of its services.

The cost of those licenses, along with their subsequent renewals, is several times what Sportradar pays to provide the same products in other states.

Sportradar also chimed in on limitations to what types of in-game wagers Illinois sportsbooks will be able to set.

Similar concerns about limitations to available wagers are shared by other future sports betting stakeholders in the Land of Lincoln.

PointsBet and other future operators offer criticism

As far as actual license holders interested in operating in the state go, several of them like MGM, PointsBet and William Hill got involved. Not only did they uniformly offer their experience to the IGB, but they also argued similar points.

Among them was the hope that the Illinois Legislature would repeal the part of the law that bans wagering on events that involve Illinois college teams.

While Sportradar’s comments about official data revolved around excessive cost, sportsbooks’ comments echo them in a roundabout way. The operators oppose a government mandate requiring them to purchase official data to set some bets.

A third common concern is the law’s tenet intended to give Illinois casinos a “head start” in sports betting by requiring in-person registration. It also addresses the idea of restricting legal wagering to land-based operators only for any period of time.

Perhaps the most common comment from all kinds of interested parties has to do with the implementation of sports betting. The comments focus on what brands can participate and when.

Contention over IGB’s interpretation of state law

Casinos, racetracks and internet sportsbooks could be at odds with each other over how the IGB interprets one part of the state’s gambling law. The statute speaks to how online operators can enter the market.

The iDevelopment and Economic Association makes the point for the online sportsbooks most clearly. Though not an operator itself, it has an interest in internet gambling as a trade association for that industry.

iDEA wants the IGB to adopt an aggressive, literal interpretation of the statute.

Operators of future land-based sportsbooks, on the other hand, want the IGB to get creative with the statute and limit the number of skins and prohibit co-branding.

The advantage for them is simple: the fewer operators in the state there are, the greater piece of the pie they can claim.

These are just a few decisions the IGB will make in the coming months. It’s likely that no matter what it decides, someone will be disappointed. Chief among them will be the NBPA.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Kansas City, Mo. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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