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Leagues seeking royalties from sports wagering may be let down

As the dust settles from last week’s historic Supreme Court decision on sports wagering — which everybody was fully expecting, by the way — we’re starting to see how plans to spread regulated betting nationwide will shake out.

With the court’s repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Mississippi and Connecticut are on the verge of taking the first legal single-event sports bets outside Nevada. Look for New Jersey to be first out of the gate, maybe later this month and possibly in time for the start of the National Basketball Association Finals.

While the first legal sports bet outside Nevada could be placed on an NBA game, all is not well for the league’s proposal to cash in on the spread of wagering.

Major League Baseball also has been an advocate of a so-called “integrity fee,” or royalty, for itself.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is a proponent of federal regulation to “provide a uniform approach to sports gambling in states that choose to permit it.”

Good luck with that, commissioner.

It’s possible that federal lawmakers will want to involve themselves in gambling oversight, but the whole point of the Supreme Court’s decision was to give states the ability to decide whether they want gambling.

American Gaming Association CEO Geoff Freeman is confident that federal lawmakers will stay away from regulating sports betting, which probably would be the easiest way for the NBA to carve out a royalty.

“I’ve heard some interesting arguments regarding the benefits of some kind of federal legislation, and some of them can even be partly compelling at times,” Freeman said last week. “The problem for those making those arguments is that ship has sailed. America long ago decided that gaming would be regulated on a state-by-state basis. I’m not sure how you’re going to bring the federal government in here to tell the states what to do, given the states hold such great authority over betting.”

Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., whose district includes the Strip, concurs.

“I don’t think you’ll see it happen here in Congress,” she said. “For one thing, this is not a priority with them. They are not even very knowledgeable about how gaming works and certainly not about PASPA. It’s going to be very hard to roll all of that back and push it into one federal bill.”

Titus chuckled at the notion of sports leagues collecting an “integrity fee.”

“You can call it an integrity fee, but I call it a piece of the action,” she said.

Nevada books have never paid a piece of the action and probably won’t start doing it now. The books, in fact, have spotted corruption and alerted leagues when it’s happened.

As Silver noted, the leagues likely will continue to lobby states that haven’t approved sports betting legislation. They managed to persuade West Virginia lawmakers to include a 1 percent fee to leagues in their sports-betting legislation.

As lawmakers become more educated about the issue, they’ll likely dismiss the leagues’ demands for fees.

And, without the feds stepping in, they’ll have to be satisfied with the higher television ratings their games will get because of gamblers watching to the end to see if their team covered the spread.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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