The English Premier League has jumped onto the integrity fee bandwagon giving American professional sports leagues some overseas backing. With legal sports betting becoming an increasingly likely reality in the U.S., it should come as no surprise that leagues around the world would look to capitalize on the new market.
Should the Supreme Court overturn the U.S.'s federal ban on sports wagering, sports leagues will attempt to tax consumers of their product and bookmakers by demanding exclusive data rights and fees. Under the guise of “protecting integrity” the leagues believe they can exploit a major chance to profit by charging a one-percent fee on every potential U.S. sports bet made.
Adrian Ford, the general manager of DataCo, expressed the Premier League’s support of the ideology put forth by Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association. DataCo is the official rights holder for the EPL and all professional soccer leagues in England and Scotland.
“Broadly, we don't think what the leagues are asking for is fundamentally wrong, if you're trying to come up with a framework that works for both parties. We would not see why there would be an issue about sports getting a return from betting. We’d echo some of the high-level statements the NBA has made."
It’s interesting that in the same week it was reported that the EPL is more profitable than it has ever been in history, that it’s simultaneously concerned with making even more money. Ford further explained his rationale for the support:
"If someone is making money off us, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be interested in that and why we shouldn’t have some level of involvement in the commercial return.”
English football is no stranger to betting as there are around 50 gambling brands invested in jersey sponsorships and pitch perimeter signage across the 92 teams that compete in England. But simply making that kind of ridiculously lucrative profit off of dually beneficial partnerships with sportsbooks isn’t enough, apparently.
Never mind that while bookmakers are as common as Starbucks coffee shops in the UK, the Premier League gets no cut of the action through integrity fees. Never mind that the legal sports betting market in Nevada, which generated a record $4.9 billion in revenue in 2017, won’t give a cent of that revenue to MLB or the NBA.
Nevertheless, the sports leagues are intent on pushing the manufactured idea that data rights and fees will guarantee integrity protection. The leagues even partnered with data provider Genius Sports to create a website warning against the supposed dangers of unofficial data and the illegal betting market.
Indeed, while there’s undoubtedly a huge illegal market, there is no precedent in the existing legal global sports betting market that dictates any justification for the demands the leagues are currently asking for.
Yet, leagues continue to overstate concerns with threats to integrity in a desperate attempt to create that precedent. If MLB and the NBA get their way in America, it’ll give the EPL leverage and an example to build from when lobbying for integrity fees of its own. That will severely hurt the profits of everyone but the EPL.
It was reported by NJ.com that MLB and NBA officials recently met with New Jersey politicians to communicate their desire for the fees. One of the site’s sources called the leagues’ proposal “laughable.”
Former state Senator Raymond Lesniak, a Union County Democrat, said that the leagues' requests are “a day late and a dollar short.” Lesniak was highly influential in the state’s push for sports betting that made it all the way to the Supreme Court in a case that many expect New Jersey to win.
“Now that we're on brink of a victory, they come looking for a piece of the action?” Lesniak postulated.