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The games they play: Sports leagues oppose Internet gambling regulation

4 May 2007

The four major professional U.S. sports leagues and the NCAA have sent a letter to the House Financial Services Committee asking members to oppose the Internet Gambling Regulation and Enforcement Act, according to a report by the Stephens Washington Bureau.



"Our sports organizations each have strict policies against sports betting because wagering on sports can corrupt athletic contests or create the appearance of corruption," the letter said.



While the proposed legislation would allow the leagues to opt out of a licensed and regulated Internet gambling market, the leagues are worried that any expansion of Internet gambling in the United States could eventually lead to sports betting on all leagues, regardless of their desire to be excluded.



"If online poker or lotteries or other forms of restrictions are legalized, a major trading partner such as the European Union may be able to get the WTO (World Trade Organization) to rule against all U.S. gambling restrictions," the letter said.



Industry officials in the U.K., however, do not agree with the assessment of the professional sports leagues.



"The realistic position is that people do want to bet on these major sports, so the sensible thing would be to open the market," said Ciaran O'Brien, head of public relations for Ladbrokes.



And while it is highly unlikely that the NFL, Major League Baseball, the NBA, the NHL and the NCAA will change their position on gambling, other U.S.-based sports leagues could are taking a wait-see-approach on licensed and regulated sportsbooks.



The Arena Football League has grown substantially in recent years, signing a five-year contract with ESPN in December. But when Casino City contacted the league, the AFL wouldn't say if they would ask sportsbooks not to list them in a regulated environment.



"We cannot speculate on how we would react to a bill that is still in such a preliminary stage," said Chris McCloskey, executive vice president of communications for the Arena Football League. "However, we review all sports gambling issues with the utmost care to ensure that the integrity of our game is never compromised, and that would certainly be our foremost consideration in deciding how to react to any such law."



The NFL, NBA, NHL, NCAA and Major League Baseball did not respond to requests for more information.



Sports leagues have always had an odd relationship with the gambling industry. The NFL requires teams to release weekly injury reports – which is used primarily for gambling purposes. And Major League Baseball says that betting on its games is improper while fantasy baseball is acceptable. But Ladbrokes believes that allowing betting on games is the best way to ensure the integrity of the games they play.



"The more sensible position is to be regulated and then anything untoward could be tracked," said O'Brien.


The games they play: Sports leagues oppose Internet gambling regulation is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.
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Best of Aaron Todd
Aaron Todd

Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd was an editor/writer at Casino City for nearly eight years, and is currently the Assistant Director of Athletics for Communications and Marketing at St. Lawrence University, his alma mater. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and Badugi.

Aaron Todd

Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd was an editor/writer at Casino City for nearly eight years, and is currently the Assistant Director of Athletics for Communications and Marketing at St. Lawrence University, his alma mater. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and Badugi.