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Sports betting could be widely legalized soon, and America’s top athletes have concerns

An Supreme Court ruling could mean sportsbooks outside of Nevada, and that’s raising questions.

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March Madness Viewing Party At The Westgate Las Vegas Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

An upcoming Supreme Court decision could strike the law that prevents most states from legalizing sports betting, and that has some of the nation’s top athletes concerned. Representatives from America’s big four sports leagues’ players associations released a joint statement Thursday, urging caution should the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) be overturned.

That law, in its current state, effectively prevents states from allowing local sportsbooks to take wagers on athletic competitions. Legal experts expect it to be overturned in the coming weeks, and the fallout could mean a scramble for states to legalize sports betting and capitalize on the tax revenue it would bring.

Those decisions shouldn’t be made in haste, according to the National Basketball Players Association, Major League Baseball Players Association, National Football League Players Association, and National Hockey League Players Association. Accounts representing players’ unions from the NBA, NFL, and MLB tweeted out this statement Thursday morning:

“Given the pending Supreme Court decision regarding the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PAPSA) [SIC], 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 on our businesses. Betting on sports may become widely legal, but we cannot allow those two 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.”

It’s not the first time representatives from the sports that will drive these wagers have spoken up. Each of the big four leagues are plaintiffs in the Christie v. NCAA case that is driving this potential repeal. The NBA, MLB, and PGA Tour also support proposed legislation in Indiana that would include a one percent “integrity fee,” which would go to the leagues being bet on and ostensibly spent to ensure proper oversight against issues like point shaving or match fixing.

Now the players who drive these leagues are speaking out, and they want to see proper oversight should the PASPA be stricken from the law books. They want to ensure the integrity of their sports, but also athletes’ rights on both a personal and financial basis.

Legalizing sports betting would allow states the regulation and oversight to bring a common practice out of the shadows. Five states have recently passed bills regarding local sportsbooks, and 14 more have introduced legislation to expand their gaming reach into professional and amateur athletics. Momentum is building against PASPA, and revenue-hungry legislators are ready to take full advantage.

But players associations across America’s four biggest sports are urging caution, and not to let athletes get swept up in this tide of new legislation.