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Pittsburgh Pirates Seek To Plunder Pennsylvania's Upcoming Sports Betting Market

Baseball Franchise Eyes Money For Maintaining Ballpark

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The Major League Baseball team in Pittsburgh wants a cut of the casino industry’s sports betting revenue to help pay for things like mowing the grass.

Touting its position as “beloved pillar of the Pittsburgh community,” the Pirates baseball franchise penned a letter dated June 15 to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board asking for money from upcoming sports betting in the Keystone State. Every state in the nation was given the green light to legalize sports betting thanks to a mid-May ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court.

The team wants regulators to implement a so-called “integrity fee” to be paid by sports betting operators in order to assist the Pirates in monitoring “betting lines and betting information internally.” The two-page letter from the team’s president stated that “maintaining the public trust in the integrity of our games is paramount.”

However, integrity isn’t the only thing the Pirates and the league itself want to maintain. The team also wants a fee derived from sports betting revenues for maintenance of PNC Ballpark. LegalSportsReport was first to cover the team’s request. PNC Park, which opened in 2001, largely relied on public money to be constructed.

Another problem with the team’s request is that Pennsylvania is already eyeing a 36 percent tax on sports betting revenue. That dwarfs the less than seven percent paid by Nevada’s bookmakers. In Nevada, the casinos retained just 5.1 percent of $4.8 billion worth of wagers in 2017 ($248.7 million in sports betting revenue). It also doesn’t help that gaming winnings have stagnated for Pennsylvania’s 12 brick-and-mortars casinos.

Here’s the section of the letter requesting the funds:

“We think it is important to note that any revenue generated through sports wagering is largely dependent on organizations like the Pirates who actually supply the sports wagering product. Without professional sports there can be no professional sports betting. Providing a professional sports product is a costly endeavor. While our landlord is responsible for capital repair and improvements at PNC Park, the Pirates are responsible for maintenance and operational expenses at PNC Park, which has consistently been named the premier ballpark in the country since its opening in 2001. The capital needs at PNC Park are significant and unfortunately are much higher than the current funds allocated to them by our landlord. We have been engaged in constant dialogue over the past five to seven years with city, county and state officials about the need allocate a funding source to the capital needs of PNC Park. It stands to reason that a portion of the revenue collected from sports wagering should be allocated to the maintenance and capital upkeep of PNC Park.”