Metro

Mass. gaming board chair says states should oversee sports bets

Massachusetts Gaming Commission chairman Stephen P. Crosby and his counterparts in three other jurisdictions said the expansion of sports betting is best handled by individual states.
David L. Ryan/Globe Staff/File 2018
Massachusetts Gaming Commission chairman Stephen P. Crosby and his counterparts in three other jurisdictions said the expansion of sports betting is best handled by individual states.

The top gambling regulator in Massachusetts on Wednesday joined colleagues from several other states in rebuking the nation’s professional sports leagues over the future of sports betting, in particular rejecting requests that the teams share in the spoils of legalized wagering on their games.

In a policy statement, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission’s chairman, Stephen P. Crosby, and his counterparts in three other jurisdictions said the expansion of sports betting is best handled by individual states. Some leagues have argued in favor of strict federal control, and some have asked states to collect fees to help with the cost of monitoring for corruption.

“States and tribal gaming regulatory agencies have the capacity, resources, and ability to oversee the regulation of legalized sports betting,” said the statement, also signed by gaming regulators in Louisiana, Michigan, and Nevada — currently the only state where single-game wagers are legal.

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The US Supreme Court last week threw out a law that prohibited the expansion of sports wagering, leaving states to decide whether to legalize it. On Wednesday, Massachusetts House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo cast doubt on whether the Legislature could adopt a sports betting law this year.

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“The more we talk about it, the more questions that we get,” DeLeo said. “If we’re going to do it, I think we have to do it as best we can, and try to get it right the first time.”

He added that he is interested to see whether there will be any new federal laws governing what states may do.

In an interview, Crosby emphasized the gaming commission has no position on whether sports betting should be legal here. He does, however, believe that commissions like his are best equipped to oversee the business where it is allowed. “There’s a regulatory environment that’s already very experienced, and very well set up, and in the case of Nevada, a proven success vehicle,” Crosby said.

The National Football League and the NCAA have been particularly vocal in calling for Congress to set a nationwide standard for states that pursue legalization, though federal lawmakers have not taken significant steps toward doing so.

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Meanwhile, several states are rushing toward legalization, with some hoping to allow wagers within a few weeks. Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association have requested that states create a so-called integrity fee that would fund their efforts to monitor for irregularities.

But the four regulators, convening in a working group at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, argued that such a measure would “increase the costs of legal sports betting, siphon much-needed tax revenues away from state coffers, and increase state regulatory burdens.”

The regulators argued instead that states “should aim to share real-time betting information, in an effort to detect, prevent, and eliminate match fixing.”

In the interview, Crosby said the leagues are entitled to argue they deserve a portion of the money wagered on their games.

But he said there are more effective ways to oversee gambling activities than a fee paid to sports leagues.

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“It’s just an attempt by the leagues for revenue sharing,” Crosby said. “They can go for it if they want to. There’s nothing wrong with trying to get in on the pot.”

In a statement, Major League Baseball said regulators had taken a position on sports betting that could lead to a breakdown in state-level discussions with the league.

MLB argued that casinos could cover the cost of the fee without reducing the amount of money available to states.

“MLB would support regulation of sports betting by the states, but only if the states enact statutes and regulations that protect the interests of all stakeholders, not just the casinos,” the statement said. “Proposals like this one would force MLB to seek federal regulation of sports betting.”

In a Bloomberg interview, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver compared the fee to a royalty. “The NBA . . . is going to spend roughly $7.5 billion dollars just this season producing our games, and our view is we should be compensated as the intellectual property creators for this content,” Silver said.

Joshua Miller of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Andy Rosen can be reached at andrew.rosen@globe.com.