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As legalized gambling nears, players' unions seek 'seat at the table'

Legalized sports gambling could become a reality across America in the near future, based in large part on the outcome of a case now under consideration by the Supreme Court. And if Americans get the opportunity to bet on Monday Night Football or Christmas Day NBA, the players in those leagues and others, reasonably enough, want input on how any potential gambling system might operate.

MLBPA, NBPA, NFLPA, and NHLPA, the players’ associations of baseball, basketball, football, and hockey respectively, released a joint statement:


The full statement reads as follows:

“Given the pending Supreme Court decision regarding the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PAPSA), representatives of the MLBPA, NBPA, NFLPA and NHLPA have been working together on the legal, commercial, practical and human consequences of allowing sports betting to become mainstream. The time has come to address not just who profits from sports gambling, but also the costs. Our unions have been discussing the potential impact of legalized gambling on players’ privacy and publicity rights, the integrity of our games and the volatility of our businesses. Betting on sports may become widely legal, but we cannot allow those who have lobbied the hardest for sports gambling to be the only ones controlling how it would be ushered into our businesses. The athletes must also have a seat at the table to ensure that players’ rights and the integrity of our games are protected.”

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The Supreme Court has heard arguments in Christie vs. NCAA, in which New Jersey (in the person of then-Gov. Chris Christie) challenged a nationwide ban (with some exceptions) on state-supported legalized gambling that’s been in place since 1992. If the Supreme Court overturns the law, and a decision is expected to come down before the court recesses in July, the door could open wide for gambling on sports all over the country.

The unions’ statement follows the PGA Tour’s public statements about wanting input and a 1% “integrity fee” attached to all gambling on golf. The question here isn’t really about having that “seat at the table” or about protecting the specific sports from corruption; gambling already exists, in both legal and illegal forms, and thus so does the potential for abuse. The issue, as all these unions and organizations well know, is that legalized sports gambling would unlock billions upon billions of dollars of currently inaccessible funds, and everyone wants a piece.

If fans are going to bet on games, players’ unions want input on how. (Getty)

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.

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