Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association’s lobbying effort on legal sports betting is expanding northeast to Rhode Island. In recent weeks we’ve seen the two leagues making the case at hearings and in literature behind the scenes for legislation that could bring the leagues a windfall of money and control (at the expense of operators and states).
Rhode Island is among over a dozen states to take up legal sports measures in 2018 as the United States Supreme Court will soon issue its decision in Christie/Murphy v NCAA, which may result in the elimination of the 1992 federal law PASPA, which bans full-fledged sports betting everywhere in the U.S. except Nevada.
In January, Rhode Island Senate President Dominick Ruggiero introduced Senate Bill 2045, “authorizing state-operated sports wagering at Twin River/Tiverton facilities” when permitted by federal law.
NBA, MLB Hire Rhode Island Lobbyist for $2.5K a Pop In Connection With Sports Betting Legislation and Debate
The lobbyist in Rhode Island is not of the law firm Orrick, which the leagues have used in Indiana, Missouri and West Virginia. Here the leagues have hired, for a combined $5,000, former Democratic Rhode Island Senate Finance Chairman Stephen Alves. After eight terms, Alves got primaried in 2008 and has been working as a State House lobbyist since, reports WPRI.com in Rhode Island.
Dates if any for committee meetings or hearings on SB 2045 are not yet known. After its introduction, the bill was referred to the Senate Special Legislation and Veterans Affairs.
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“We’ve dedicated years to carefully studying the issue of legalized sports betting and we agree the time has come to give sports fans a safe and legal way to bet on sports while protecting the integrity of our games,” Mike Bass, the NBA’s executive vice president of communications, said in a statement. “We look forward to working with the governor and the legislature on a framework that includes appropriate safeguards.”
Rhode Island governor Gina Raimondo may have jumped the gun a little bit on sports betting: She actually included $23.5M revenue in her budget for the upcoming fiscal year based on $815 million in gross wagering. One thing at a time, but clearly there is an appetite for legal sports betting in Rhode Island coming from the top down.
Hence the hire by the NBA and MLB, although $5,000, while not knowing the level of commitment involved for Alves, seems like quite a bargain. Especially considering he’s pulling in $3,000 from the Rhode Island Library Association.
Among other things, the NBA is seeking a 1% “integrity fee” (or 20% cut of sportsbook operator revenue) so it can perform the same kind of services it already performs; also it wants to control data used by sportsbooks to grade wagers, to control data for real-time wagers, to control the type of wagers it can offer, and a date with your daughter.