Sports leagues lobby for cut of sports gambling revenue

Sports leagues lobby for cut of sports gambling revenue. (MGN)

Professional sports leagues believe they should get a cut of the money if Rhode Island legalizes sports gambling.

Executives from Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and the PGA Tour went to the Rhode Island State House Tuesday to ask for a 0.25-percent “integrity fee” if lawmakers bring sports gambling into the public sphere.

The Supreme Court struck down a federal law Monday that made most sports gambling illegal.

The leagues said they should collect a fee because they create the source of the betting and are responsible for protecting it from fixing.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman William Conley, a Democrat, said he wasn’t convinced by their arguments.

The leagues also asked the state to share data it collects from the bets and said they would license their official statistics.

It’s now an issue in the governor’s race, and there are almost as many thoughts on the matter as there are candidates.

“I think we’re missing an opportunity to making a tax cut,” Patricia Morgan, a Republican candidate, told NBC 10 News. “We’re looking at this as another pool of revenue that goes into the general fund and fuels spending. What we should be looking at is a way to give people tax relief.”

Cranston Mayor Allan Fung said there’s plenty to still be worked out.

“First and foremost is the legality -- whether or not we do or actually don’t have to go back to the voters on this question,” Fung said. “Second of all, setting up the process and the regulation.”

Fung would also like to see the money restricted somehow and not put directly into the General Fund.

Independent Joe Trillo thinks the windfall will be more than predicted.

“Bookies have been doing it for years, and we might as well get some taxes out of it,” Trillo said. “It will probably generate a $100 million down the road a year. We could take that money and use it to fix all the roads. I’m talking about the back roads in the cities and towns.”

He added that it would remove the need for truck tolls.

Democrat Matt Brown hadn’t developed a response by deadline, while Spencer Dickinson said gambling runs in cycles. He also said it’s not a good thing on which to build a budget.

Paul Roselli also weighed in.

“We got to put it back into how we got that money. We got that money from sports betting. Let’s put it back into the sports facilities both the local and schools; part of our school improvement program.”

Anne Armstrong of the Rhode Island Compassion Party is disappointed with the whole idea.

“It breeds corruption, it breeds pressure on the athletes to throw games,” she said. “And I think it’s terrible when the state can’t find a better way to raise revenue than attaching themselves like a tick to human weakness.”

Meanwhile, Connecticut is considering a special session to deal with the issue, and Massachusetts is full speed ahead.

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