UFC supports expansion of legalized sports betting

October 31, 2014

ESPN reports that the UFC, to no surprise, supports the expansion of legalized sports betting in the United States.  UFC exec Lawrence Epstein was quoted as saying that legalized sports betting “will enhance the game as opposed to doing anything to hurt it.”

Epstein also stated to ESPN about the proposed new law allowing sports betting in New Jersey, “[t]o the extent that there’s nothing illegal about taking bets on the UFC in the state of New Jersey, we’d be absolutely fine with it.”  The comments come on the heels of similar support from first year NBA commissioner Adam Silver who believes that sports betting legalization in the U.S. is “inevitable.”

Major sports leagues including the NBA have sued the state of New Jersey and have obtained a temporary restraining order preventing the state’s racetrack, Monmouth Park, from accepting bets on its games.  Of note, U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp wrote in his ruling that the restraining order was not limited to the sport leagues involved in the suit.  Thus, it could prevent taking bets on MMA even though no promotion is currently involved in the litigation.

The lawsuit by the leagues argues that the law passed by Governor Christie, the 2014 Sports Wagering Act, violates the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PAPSA).  PAPSA bans state-sponsored sports betting on all sports except jai alai, pari-mutuel horse and dog racing except in four states:  Oregon, Nevada, Montana and Delaware.  These four states have pre-existing gaming laws.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed legislation that partially repealed the state’s sports betting ban.  Based on this, the state would allow sports betting at casinos and racetracks, which are licensed by the state.  Monmouth Park would have taken bets this Sunday if not for the temporary injunction filed by the sports leagues.

At this point, the sports leagues (NBA, NFL, MLB and NHL) have filed their reply briefs in New Jersey on the matter and now Judge Shipp will decide on whether oral argument is necessary. The TRO ends November 21st.

For those wondering, this issue is just the latest episode of a long fight for legalized sports betting in New Jersey.  A similar case was denied a U.S. Supreme Court hearing last term.  In arguing that  PAPSA violated states’ rights, New Jersey stated that the law was unconstitutional because it fully exempts Nevada and partially exempts Oregon, Montana and Delaware from the ban.  New Jersey had lost an appeal to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals to a rehearing on the case and attempted to take its case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

As a result of the denial, in August 2014, New Jersey passed the aforementioned partial repeal on the prohibition against sports wagering as a “work around.”  But, this is where we get the lawsuit from the sports leagues.

While the NBA may one day support legalized gambling, the issue here is the state law in New Jersey.  One would think that if a federal law is passed, the sports leagues would comply.

Payout Perspective:

It’s clear that the UFC, with its heritage (and some sponsors) based in the gambling industry, would support legalized sports betting in the U.S.  Certainly, the UFC might have concerns with regulation but overall it would seem like broader availability to gamble on the UFC would garner more interest in its product.  Obviously, the UFC is willing considering it seamlessly offers betting lines during its events and programming.  The new litigation in New Jersey will be interesting to follow as the  underlying issue here is that the law seems to be a way to boost revenue for the state.  Its not clear if the UFC will get involved at this point, but it will certainly be following it closely.

Le attempts damage control in wake of suspension

October 3, 2014

Cung Le responded to the initial reports of testing positive for elevated levels of HGH.  Le denies taking performance enhancing drugs in a Facebook post.

“I was completed (sic) surprised at the results of my recent drug test.  I was informed by the UFC that I passed my pre- and post-fight drug test, as well as the majority of the blood tests with the only abnormality being an elevated level of hGH being determined to be present. “

Le goes on to question the testing that took place.

“I have been informed that there are many possible reasons for a level of hGH  to exceed what is allowed unknowingly and my doctors are researching those possibilities, which may include a much more serious health concern.  I have also been informed about the unreliability of the current hGH testing that exists and it’s (sic) high rate of inaccuracy.”

“We were informed that the laboratory was advised to use the WADA approved rules and procedures when conducting the testing that they administer, yet the lab in Hong Kong contracted to do the testing was not WADA approved, which was surprising since there was a WADA approved lab available in Beijing China.”

The lengthy explanation goes on to bring into doubt the testing facility and its procedures for collection.  Still, the public perception was that Le used PEDs to gain an advantage.  The UFC has not responded to Le’s statement.  It has suspended Le for a year which essentially may end his career with the company.

Payout Perspective:

The press release does some damage control for Le as well as brings into doubt the testing procedures.  The release does a good job of attempting to educate those not familiar with the testing procedures that there could have been an issue with it as well as bring to light the fact that the UFC acts as its own regulatory body for these shows.  The conclusion it hopes readers (i.e., Le supporters) come to is that the process of using a non-WADA approved lab could produce an incorrect result.

NAC to issue ruling on Jones-Cormier brawl

September 18, 2014

The Nevada State Athletic Commission has filed complaints against Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier after review of the video related to their brawl at a UFC media event last month to promote their upcoming fight.  The complaint seeks to fine the fighters up to $250,000 and the potential for all of their fight purses according to the document obtained by MMA Junkie.

The issue will be determined at the upcoming NAC hearing on September 23rd.

According to the complaint obtained by MMA Junkie, the fighters violated NRS 467.158 which allows for a penalty not to exceed $250,000 or 100 percent of the share of the purse whichever amount is greater.  The penalty may include costs for the investigation including attorney’s fees.

Payout Perspective:

It is good to see the commission taking action whereas it appeared that it was going to wait on making a decision on the brawl.  The penalty for Jones and Cormier will probably not take away either of the fighters’ fight purse for their fight (now scheduled for January 2015) but I think that the NAC will issue a stiff fine to prevent these types of fights that could potentially hurt innocent bystanders.  It’s clear that a part of this brawl was precipitated to draw interest in the event and we will see how the commission will rule to prevent future spectacles.

UFC cites Code of Conduct for potential penalty for Monday fight

August 5, 2014

The Monday melee between Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier may have ramifications for both from the Nevada State Athletic Commission and the UFC.  The UFC indicated that it is looking into the incident and citing it as a violation of the UFC’s code of conduct.

“We expect more from our athletes, especially these two gentlemen, who are very well-trained and highly educated professionals.  Their actions were clearly a violation of the UFC’s code of conduct,” stated Kirk Hendrick, the UFC’s Chief Legal Officer, per a report on UFC.com.

Hendrick indicated that the UFC would reserve the right to penalize Jones and Cormier pending the NSAC’s review of the incident.

Payout Perspective:

The Code of Conduct has not been in the news since Matt Mitrione caused a stir with his comments about Fallon Fox.  It’s clear that despite the news it’s achieved, brawling in a public setting where bystanders could have been injured is not a good idea.  However, don’t expect any suspensions.  It’s likely we will see a fine but nothing else.

Sonnen given 2 year ban by commission

July 23, 2014

MMA Junkie reports that the Nevada State Athletic Commission issued a two-year suspension as at a hearing held on Wednesday.

Sonnen must pay any and all doctors’ fees for the random drug tests he failed on May 24th and June 5th.  Additionally, it is expected that he will become a precautionary tale for others and serve as a “resource” for halting future PED use.

There were differing opinions on the penalty for Sonnen as they ranged from a lifetime ban to the 2 year ban.

Sonnen tested for a total of five PEDs prior to his intended July 5th fight with Vitor Belfort.  Initially, he claimed the positive test for PEDs related to him coming off of TRT treatment and the fact that he was trying to have children.  After the second positive test, Sonnen was terminated from the UFC and his analyst position at Fox Sports.

Payout Perspective:

Fair penalty?  Sonnen’s attorney stressed Sonnen’s cooperation with the investigation and the UFC and Fox Sports terminations when contemplating the penalty.  Essentially Sonnen threw himself at the mercy of the commission.  This strategy seemed to work.  Although it’s unlikely Sonnen will return to MMA in Vegas, the two year ban does leave a slim opening.  Moreover, he could have been assessed a stiff fine but seemed to have avoided this.

NY Senator vows to continue support of MMA bill

June 25, 2014

As most expected, including the UFC, the New York State Assembly failed to vote on a bill to legalize professional Mixed Martial Arts in the state.  Despite another year without any movement, the bill’s sponsor intends to continue on next year.

The lead sponsor to the MMA bill set to legalize professional MMA in the state, Senator Joseph Griffo told MMA Payout the following:

I’m disappointed, but not surprised, that my bill to legalize MMA did not come to the Assembly floor for a vote before session ended.  We’ve tried to address opponents’ concerns in crafting our legislation. This sport is much more organized and more regulated than when it first became popular. Everyone besides New York has allowed professional matches to be held in their state. The latest economic analysis, done by HR&A advisors, reports that legally sanctioned MMA would generate $67 million in annual spending and create 525 jobs in New York. I thank Assemblyman Joe Morelle for his effort to get a vote for the bill. It’s my hope that Assembly leadership reconsiders their position before the year is over. Regardless, I will carry this bill every year until it passes or I leave office.

Senator Griffo also sponsored the bill that would have allowed regulation of amateur MMA in the state of New York.  That bill was not voted on either by the state Assembly prior to the end of this year’s session.

MMA Payout has reached out to Assemblyman Morelle for additional comment but his office has not responded at the time of this writing.

Payout Perspective:

Another year, another missed opportunity for the legalization of professional MMA in the state.  Perhaps we may see some movement with this bill next year as the lawsuit filed by Zuffa in the state appears to come down to the filing of Summary Judgment motions.  The Court’s decision on these motions may coincide with next year’s legislative session which could facilitate a vote in the state Assembly.

This past Sunday we participated in a discussion on legal issues in MMA including the continued effort to legalize pro MMA in the state.  You can find the Sports Law Chat tweetup here.

Court sets schedule for Summary Judgment Motions in New York

June 22, 2014

With the New York Assembly not voting on a bill to legalize pro MMA in the state, the focus turns to Zuffa’s lawsuit against the state.  A court order issued late last week will allow the parties to file Motions for Summary Judgment by July 3rd.

The remaining cause of action left from Zuffa’s lawsuit filed back in November 2011 is the claim that the present law banning MMA in the state is unconstitutionally vague.  The Court dismissed the previous claims upon New York’s Motion to Dismiss.

The parties have until July 3rd to file a motion which would dismiss the final claim and end the lawsuit if filed by New York.  Zuffa has the option of filing its own motion which may leave an opening for a possible settlement.

Responses to the initial Summary Judgment Motions are due on July 17th with Replies to those Response Motions by July 31st.

H/t:  Jim Genia

Payout Perspective:

Spoiler Alert.  There will be a Motion for Summary Judgment.  The end to this lawsuit could be near.  Or, we could be hunkering down for more briefing.  Discovery has closed for all intents and purposes and if the Court is not persuaded to dismiss the lawsuit on New York’s Summary Judgment motion, we will be getting ready for a trial.

If you were wondering how long after the Court receives the papers will the Judge make a decision.  The lawyerly answer to that is: it depends.  But if you want some guidance.  New York filed its Motion to Dismiss in October 2012, a hearing did not take place until February 2013 and the ruling was not issued until late September 2013.  Thus, we could wait almost a year for a ruling.  Hopefully, it may happen sooner.  But, we may be through another legislative session in New York before a ruling.

MMA Payout will keep you posted.

MMA Payout returns to Sports Law Chat Sunday

June 20, 2014

On Sunday, June 22nd from 8pm-9pm ET MMA Payout will be a part of Sports Law Chat’s tweetup talking about Legal Issues in MMA including a discussion about the continued struggle to legalize professional MMA in New York.  MMA Journalist Jim Genia and Sports and Entertainment Lawyer Carla Varriale will also be a part of the discussion.

Varriale is teaching a course this summer at Columbia University’s School of Continuing Education’s Sports Management Program entitled, “MMA in New York: A Study in Whether It Should Be Legalized and Regulated.”  As you can tell from the name of the class, it takes a look at the battle to legalize the sport in New York state.  As many of you know, Jim Genia is an MMA journalist that is intimately familiar with the battle in the state.  It should prove to be an informative time.

For more information, please follow Sports Law Chat on twitter (@SportsLawChat).  You may also feel free to follow Varriale (@carlavarriale), Genia (@jim_genia) or myself (@dilletaunt).

For those on the west coast, it will take place on twitter between 5pm-6pm on Sunday June 22nd.  Celebrate the U.S. World Cup win over Portugal by logging on and learning more about legal issues in MMA.

New York State Senate passes Amateur MMA Bill

June 18, 2014

A bill to establish protocols for amateur MMA has passed the New York Senate and is being delivered to the New York Assembly for the possibility of a vote to make it a law.  Newsday’s Mark La Monica first reported the passage of the bill.

The bill, sponsored by New York State Senator Joseph A. Griffo, provides rules and regulations for amateur mixed martial arts in the state.  Griffo is a proponent of lifting the ban on professional MMA in the state.

Via Senator Griffo’s News Release:

“In my advocacy for mixed martial arts, I’ve met many fighters and promoters. All want to make the bouts as safe as possible – not just for the fighters, but for the judges, refs and fans,” said Griffo, R-Rome. “However, there was a lack of consistency among amateur contests. Most promoters would ensure their bouts were sanctioned by an established and reputable organization. A few, however, put profit over safety and held bouts that put fans and fighters at unnecessary risk.”

“This bill brings the entire amateur realm under the oversight of the New York Athletic Commission,” said Griffo. “It will put the emphasis where it should be – creating a safe and enjoyable experience for all.

The bill would establish a medical advisory board and commission to have jurisdiction over amateur matches. It would require participants to undergo a thorough physical examination, including neurological and neurophysical examinations, prior to being approved for a fight. No one could fight unless they were 18 years of age or older.

The bill would also prohibit fighters who suffered a KO or TKO – or were rendered unconscious – from participating in a match for 90 days. It requires promoters to provide insurance for participants and reimburse athletes for medical, surgical and hospital care that was a result of participating in the program.

Without mandating it, the bill gives the Commission the ability to require medical personnel and an ambulance at the site of match.

Any fighter, referee or judge who participates in an amateur match without being licensed by the Commission would be guilty of a misdemeanor.

Payout Perspective:

If you read, Jim Genia’s piece on Deadspin a month ago, you might be thankful that this legislation is moving along.  Genia provides an analysis of the bill here.  Genia points out the potential ramifications of the bill which may include the NY Athletic Commission’s refusal of granting licenses to promoters to hold amateur MMA events, the NYAC could staff the amateur MMA events, there could be the interpretation that MMA is now a “single discipline art” and allow an MMA organization to oversee and/or someone could challenge the bill in court.  We shall see whether the bill is passed and what the ramifications could be.

In the end, this does nothing for professional MMA in the state at this point.

Vote on MMA looking unlikely in NY

June 9, 2014

With a week left in the 2014 legislative session in New York, it appears that Dana White’s comments a couple weeks ago were prophetic.  A vote legalizing MMA in the state will not happen in the State Assembly this year.

UFC Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Marc Ratner confirmed to MMA Junkie Radio he doesn’t expect a vote this year.    “…I would say it will not make it to the floor again (this year),” Ratner said of the bill which will be bypassed yet again after passage through the state senate.

Ratner indicated that he was “cautiously optimistic” about the possibility of a bill but also stated that, “I feel like the handwriting is in big block letters on the wall and we’re not going to get it done this year.”

Ratner went on to express the frustration of the ordeal which we may assume is felt by White and many other MMA supporters in New York.

Via MMA Junkie:

“I’ve been to (New York state capital) Albany 20 times throughout the past five years, and it’s just wrong. One of my biggest analogies would be, give us a turn at bat, and if we strike out, then it’s on us. But to never, never get a chance and have the leadership of the Democratic assembly look around the room and say, ‘Not enough interest this year, let’s talk about medical marijuana,’ that’s all we get. It never comes to a vote.”

Payout Perspective:

Ratner indicated that they would need 76 of the 101 Democratic assembly members to have the MMA bill pass.  Ratner says they have 60 sponsors and would need 16 more votes for passage.  While the UFC appears to be softening the blow for what will be another empty legislative session, one has to wonder what else the UFC could do to facilitate a vote.

Next Page »