June 4, 2018 / 7:38 PM / a year ago

New Jersey lawmakers clobber sports leagues in betting bill

(Reuters) - New Jersey lawmakers on Monday advanced a bill to legalize sports betting that omitted all of the fraud fighting measures requested by professional sports leagues, who had battled the legal change for years and got a drubbing from an angry legislator.

FILE PHOTO: May 26, 2018; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; A major league baseball sits in the grass before the Pittsburgh Pirates host the St. Louis Cardinals at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The bill, which moves to the full legislature for a likely vote on Thursday, is set to make New Jersey one of the first U.S. states to regulate and tax sports bets.

New Jersey Assemblyman Ralph Caputo, still upset after the state’s years-long battle with the leagues over legalization, angrily rebuked representatives from the leagues at a hearing on Monday and said they would get none of the help or fees they requested.

“The tool you’re looking for is money. That’s not going to happen,” said Caputo, who heads the state Assembly’s gaming committee.

New Jersey and other states are racing for a piece of the estimated $150 billion spent on illegal annual wagers in the United States, after the U.S. Supreme Court in May overturned a 1992 law that had banned sports wagering except in a few places.

Delaware is set to roll out full-scale sports wagering on Tuesday. It was among the handful of states to already have legal sports betting, though it only allowed limited wagers.

Now, the leagues that oversee sports including baseball, football, and basketball, are asking for a share of revenues, saying their anti-corruption efforts must expand and they need the fees to investigate and enforce fair games.

“You guys are in it to make money. This is hypocrisy to the fullest extent,” Caputo told Bryan Seeley, head of investigations, compliance and security at Major League Baseball.

Seeley said New Jersey’s bill “does not give us the tools we need to protect our national pastime.”

The bill does not require New Jersey casinos to share real-time game data, which leagues say they need to aggregate with other states’ data to identify suspicious activity.

Nor does it require state regulators or casinos to share information with leagues - or each other - if they learn a game is fixed.

The legislation also does not bar bets on minor league baseball.

Al Leiter, a major league pitcher for 19 seasons, described how easy it could be to tempt a minor league player into fixing a bet by throwing a particular kind of pitch, for example, or allowing a trainer, equipment manager or masseuse to use injury information to run out and place a mobile bet.

“I’m a baseball player. I’m not on either side. What I do care about is our sport,” he said at the hearing.

Reporting by Hilary Russ; Editing by Daniel Bases and Rosalba O'Brien

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