Integrity fears hit US leagues after sport betting ruling

Washington (AFP) –


A US Supreme Court decision Monday allowing states to legalize sports betting brought integrity worries for sports leagues, the NBA and NFL among those seeking a federal regulatory framework.

Nevada had been the only state where US sports wagering was legal, but several states are ready to pass laws and join them after the ruling overturning a law that had banned other states from such gambling offerings.

That could open the door for as many as 50 different systems without some federal guidance on the issue, something the leagues emphasized.

"We remain in favor of a federal framework that would provide a uniform approach to sports gambling in states that choose to permit it, but we will remain active in ongoing discussions with state legislatures," NBA commissioner Adam Silver said.

"Regardless of the particulars of any future sports betting law, the integrity of our game remains our highest priority."

The NBA was hit with gambling issues in 2007 when referee Tim Donaghy pleaded guilty to two charges related to an FBI probe alleging he bet upon NBA games that he officiated. He was sentenced to 15 months in prison. The league responded by banning all sports betting by its referees.

The NFL also backed US lawmakers taking quick action to avoid chaos in multiple states over betting regulations.

"The NFL's long-standing and unwavering commitment to protecting the integrity of our game remains absolute," the NFL said in a statement.

"Congress has long-recognized the potential harms posed by sports betting to the integrity of sporting contests and the public confidence in these events. Given that history, we intend to call on Congress again, this time to enact a core regulatory framework for legalized sports betting.

"We also will work closely with our clubs to ensure that any state efforts that move forward in the meantime protect our fans and the integrity of our game."

The NFL Players Association vowed to work with other player unions in looking out for the integrity of the sport.

"The Supreme Court's decision today reaffirms the decision to collaborate with the other sports unions on the issues of player safety, integrity of our games and privacy and publicity rights," an NFLPA statement said.

"Our union will monitor developments closely and address the implications of this decision with the NFL, state legislators and other relevant stakeholders."

- Integrity key to MLB, MLS -

Major League Baseball said in a statement the ruling would have "profound effects" on the league.

"As each state considers whether to allow sports betting, we will continue to seek the proper protections for our sport, in partnership with other professional sports.

"Our most important priority is protecting the integrity of our games. We will continue to support legislation that creates air-tight coordination and partnerships between the state, the casino operators and the governing bodies in sports toward that goal."

Next year marks a century since eight Chicago White Sox players were accused of taking money from gamblers to lose the World Series, with those involved in the "Black Sox" scandal permanently banned from baseball.

Also exiled for life was all-time major league hits leader Pete Rose, found to have gambled on games while manager of the Cincinnati Reds.

Major League Soccer said it is "supportive" of the decision in a statement, but noted, "we also believe that it is critical that state legislatures and other regulatory bodies work closely with the professional sports leagues in the United States to develop a regulatory framework to protect the integrity of each of our respective sports."

The National Hockey League said the decision "paves the way to an entirely different landscape -- one in which we have not previously operated" in a statement and vowed to review league policies and practices to see if adjustments were needed.