TRENTON, N.J. — Professional sports leagues came out swinging against New Jersey's sports betting law on Monday, largely because it doesn't compensate them for keeping watch for corruption.
But state lawmakers brushed back those concerns, telling the leagues that such payments aren't going to happen.
Lawmakers made some key decisions Monday as they race to legalize sports betting after winning a case in the U.S. Supreme Court.
State Senate and Assembly committees advanced a bill that would authorize sports betting. The bill is expected to get final votes in both houses on Thursday and advance to Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy's desk.
Officials from Major League Baseball, the NBA and the PGA Tour testified against the bill. They say the leagues need the integrity fee payments and additional tools like information sharing and real-time data controls to make sure betting is conducted honestly.
But they stopped short of threatening to sue to block the law, saying they hope to negotiate the desired changes. That tactic appeared to bear fruit later in the day as the Senate included an amendment that would require gambling regulators to meet with the professional sports leagues before issuing final regulations governing sports betting. The purpose of the meeting would be for the leagues to bring any concerns they have directly to the state Division of Gaming Enforcement.
The integrity fee does not exist in Nevada.
"They've been betting forever, and no one needed an integrity fee," said New Jersey state Senate President Steve Sweeney, a Democrat.
Bryan Seeley, a former federal prosecutor who now serves as senior vice president and deputy general counsel for MLB, said his office was created due to a sports betting scandal: the 1919 World Series, which was intentionally lost by the Chicago Black Sox in league with gamblers.
"Any law to authorize and regulate sports betting must put consumer safety and sports integrity first," he said in prepared testimony. "It must recognize that without our games and without a product that fans can trust, sports betting cannot exist."
Dan Spillane, senior vice president and assistant general counsel for the NBA, said sports betting is a unique industry, "which builds its product entirely on another business (i.e., a sports league), imposes substantial risks on the other business, and requires the other business to spend more to protect itself, all without providing compensation or a voice in how the underlying product is used."
But Ralph Caputo, a Democratic assemblyman and former Atlantic City casino executive, unleashed a high, hard one at the sports leagues, barely disguising his anger over their legal opposition that led to the case making it to the Supreme Court.
"You guys are in it to make money," he said. "This is hypocrisy. Nine years of fighting the state of New Jersey, and you come here? It's disgraceful. Just a suggestion: You may want to write a check to the state of New Jersey for $9 million for all the money we lost" fighting in court.
The bill set the tax rate for casinos at 8.5 percent, with an additional 1.25 percent payment to help market Atlantic City. The 1.25 percent add-on fee for tracks would be split among the host community and the county in which the track operates. Internet bets would be taxed at 13 percent.
New Jersey last month won a Supreme Court case overturning a federal law that limited sports betting to only four states. States are now free to pass laws legalizing gambling.
New Jersey lawmakers hope to legalize betting by the end of this week in their race to be among the first states to offer sports betting at casinos and racetracks following the court ruling. Delaware plans to take sports bets starting Tuesday.
Dennis Drazin, president and CEO of Darby Development LLC, which runs Monmouth Park, said he hopes to start taking bets on Friday if the Legislature approves a bill the day before.
Besides the Monmouth Park, Meadowlands and Freehold Raceway tracks, the bill also would make the former Atlantic City Race Course, in Mays Landing, eligible to offer sports betting if it were to reopen.
The bill would bar one Atlantic City casino, the Golden Nugget, from sports betting because its owner, Tilman Fertitta, owns the NBA's Houston Rockets.