Missouri Has A Better Idea Than Paying Sports Betting Integrity Fees

Missouri lawmakers were all set to become among the first in the country to seriously consider paying the integrity fee that US pro sports leagues have asked any state considering legalizing sports betting to pay.

Now it appears that while it wants to charge sports betting operators the fee, Missouri is not prepared to give the leagues the money.

The Missouri Legislature was expected to begin debating sports betting legislation with an integrity fee for the leagues attached when it returns to session in January 2019.

However, Missouri Sen. Denny Hoskins announced last week he will be pre-filing a sports betting bill that takes a cut from operators like an integrity fee would, but uses the money for an entirely different purpose.

Missouri’s (or more accurately Missouri Rep. Dean Plocher‘s) original plan included taking a 1 percent Betting Right and Integrity Fee from sports betting operators and funneling the money to professional sports leagues. Of course, this is the same type of fee the leagues have been asking states to pay ever since they ended up on the losing end of the battle to prevent states from legalizing sports betting. So far, no state has deemed it necessary to cut the leagues in.

In fact, New Jersey went as far as to call the idea insulting. Most would, considering all the legal fees the leagues cost the state in fighting against NJ sports betting to begin with.

Last week, the District of Columbia Council became just the latest government to pull a league integrity fee from its proposal to legalize sports betting. Now, Sen. Hoskins wants to make sure Missouri doesn’t become the first state to enact such a fee.

Why pay for integrity when you can fund infrastructure?

His idea is to cut that fee to 0.5 percent. Then, the state can use it to create an Entertainment Facilities Infrastructure Fund. It will pay for the construction and maintenance of various entertainment, cultural and recreational facilities across the state instead.

Other than that, Hoskins’ bill is relatively standard sports betting fare and almost exactly what the leagues have been pushing for. It calls for:

  • A 14 percent tax on adjusted gross revenue, including a 12 percent tax and a 2 percent administrative fee.
  • Restricting legal sports betting to Missouri riverboat casinos and licensed online/mobile sports betting apps.
  • Tasking the Missouri Gaming Commission with regulating the industry.
  • A $10,000 operator application fee renewable annually for $5,000.
  • A betting prohibition on athletes, coaches, officials or employees of pro teams or governing bodies.
  • No limit on third-party interactive gaming platform/operators or skins.

The battle rages on

Of course, Missouri was talking about legal sports betting prior to the U.S. Supreme Court lifting its federal ban in May. However, lawmakers never reached any kind of consensus. League integrity fees were a sticking point then. Plus, it appears to be one now heading into the beginning of the latest session of the Missouri legislature Jan. 9.

The leagues haven’t been begging for a piece of the pie from every state legislature considering sports betting. That’s mostly because they’ve found another way to get a chunk of sports betting revenue. Promotional and sponsorship deals with operators have proved a way to get at least some of the money they want.

Regardless, the leagues have indicated they have no intention of giving up. If Missouri becomes the next front line on the issue, the leagues will be there to fight for it.

Of course, that likely means operators will be there to fight against it as well.

MGM calls integrity fees offensive

Last week, MGM Resorts International CEO Jim Murren made his views on the topic quite clear. Murren said MGM is “offended by the concept,” calling the idea of integrity fees “disturbing.”

“I like the word integrity, but I believe we are paying for that already, in the relationships we have, the money we are paying for data and the money we are paying for sponsorships.”

MGM has been among a few major players to ink sports betting partnerships with the NBA, MLB, and NHL this year. However, it would appear the buck stops at integrity fees.

Martin Derbyshire

About

Martin Derbyshire has more than ten years of experience reporting on the poker, online gambling, and land-based casino industries for a variety of publications including Bluff Magazine, PokerNews, and PokerListings. He has traveled extensively, attending tournaments and interviewing major players in the gambling world.