Tag Archives: sports

Haslam lobbies sports league for Memphis

Gov. Bill Haslam said Friday he contacted Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby and several university presidents in the Power 5 league to speak on behalf of the University of Memphis and its campaign to become an expansion member, reports the Commercial Appeal.

Memphis is among several top candidates seeking one of two – and possibly four – invitations to the league, which is considering adding to its 10-team conference.

U of M president M. David Rudd has been leading the Memphis drive and enlisted Haslam’s help. Haslam said he spoke to presidents on the Big 12’s composition, or expansion, committee.

“Dr. Rudd had called and said we would really like to make this happen, can you help?” Haslam told a reporter from The Tennessean. “I doubt I was a persuasive factor in it, but I tried to help any way I could.”

Haslam briefly discussed his involvement with the Memphis bid following an education event in Nashville. He said if the U of M were to receive an invitation, it would be a “step up.”

Haslam’s comments came on a day an ESPN report revealed the Big 12 will conduct video conferences with representatives from 17 schools that have contacted the league regarding expansion. The U of M is one of the 17 schools that reportedly will be contacted by Bowlsby, who was given instructions last month by the league’s board of directors to “actively evaluate” expansion.

Memphis, BYU, Cincinnati and Houston have emerged as top candidates to join the more lucrative Power 5 league, but South Florida, Central Florida, UConn, Colorado State and Boise State also are campaigning

On legalizing fantasy sports gambling in TN

Without fanfare, Gov. Bill Haslam signed a bill pushed by online giants DraftKings and FanDuel allowing the companies and approximately 1 million Tennessee players who are already participating to do so legally, reports the Times-Free Press. The legislation will create an exemption from state anti-gambling provisions.

Sponsored by Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, and Rep. Pat Marsh, R-Shelbyville, the legislation was pushed by the companies here in anticipation of legal trouble after attorneys general in a number of states, including New York, Texas and Nevada, ruled fantasy sports violated their laws.

…Not long after the bill initially passed the Tennessee Senate, state Attorney General Herbert Slatery issued an opinion declaring that fantasy sports are indeed gambling — and illegal under Tennessee law.

While proponents said the online games are based on players’ skill in picking their teams, Slatery said there’s an element of chance and participants stand to gain financially. He said that’s gambling in Tennessee, and it’s illegal. The legal opinion was requested by House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley.

Early on, DraftKings and FanDuel were taking no chances.

According to filings with the Tennessee Ethics Commission, they hired McMahan Winstead, a Nashville lobbying firm whose clients have included tobacco companies, liquor stores and payday lenders. The companies also enlisted Washington, D.C., lobbyist Scott Ward, who serves as government affairs counsel for the law firm Orrick. And DraftKings hired former House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner.

At least eight lobbyists were registered to speak on the bill.
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Final approval given bill to legalize and tax fantasy sports betting

By Sheila Burke, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee’s Legislature passed a bill that would make clear that fantasy sports betting is legal, but would also regulate it and put a tax on it.

The Senate passed the Fantasy Sports Tax Act on Tuesday, and the bill (HB2105) is now on its way to the governor. The legislation follows a state attorney general issued legal opinion issued earlier this month that said fantasy sports contests are illegal gambling.

The measure says online companies that offer the contests must be licensed by the state. The measure also generally limits players to betting no more than $2,500 per month, unless they can show that the limit should be increased. And it would allow the state to impose a 6 percent gambling tax on the adjusted revenue of fantasy sport operators.
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AG: Fantasy sports are illegal gambling in TN

By Shelia Burke, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee’s attorney general has called fantasy sports contests illegal gambling.

Attorney General Herbert Slatery issued a formal opinion Tuesday that said fantasy sports betting violates state laws against gambling. He said that’s because participants pay an entry fee to win a prize and a portion of that fee goes to a pot where wins are paid out.

In fantasy sports, players assemble imaginary teams made up of professional sports figures. These virtual teams compete against each other based on how well the real professional players wind up performing in the real world. The attorney general said that while participants may use skill to select players, the actual performance of many athletes is often left to chance by things like the weather, injuries and referees

The attorney general’s opinion comes as states across the country have wrestled with the question of whether the popular games played by millions of Americans should be banned outright or face more regulation. Last year nearly 30 legislatures considered proposals to outright ban the games, legalize them or regulate them. Continue reading

Seven legislators have bought pro sports tickets with campaign funds

State Rep. Larry Miller, D-Memphis, has spent more than $12,000 to buy ticket to professional football and basketball games with campaign funds, reports The Tennessean. That puts him atop a list of seven current or former legislators who used their political accounts to buy tickets to Tennessee Titans or Memphis Grizzlies games — legal under state law, though illegal under the rules for campaigns for the U.S. House and Senate.

Miller and another lawmaker argued they purchased the tickets so they could give them away to constituents. They provide those tickets to constituents as a way to give back to their local communities and supporters, never to influence an election or otherwise curry favor, they said. They were quick to point out they never broke the law.

“It’s within the rules,” Miller said.

…State laws vary on whether candidates can use campaign funds for sporting events. A 2014 analysis from the National Conference of State Legislatures shows that many, if not most, states don’t allow candidates to use campaign funds for personal use. But when it comes to campaign or political activity, most states either allow or don’t clearly address spending excess campaign funds on tickets to games.

…From 2003 to 2015, seven state lawmakers combined to spend more than $30,000 on tickets to Tennessee Titans and Memphis Grizzlies games. Here are the top five:

Rep. Larry Miller, D-Memphis: $12,836.50 ($8,378 on Titans tickets, $4,458.50 on Grizzlies tickets)
Former Rep. Lois DeBerry, D-Memphis: $6,475 on Titans tickets
Former Rep. Ulysses Jones, Jr., D-Memphis: $4,832.60 ($4,557.60 on Grizzlies tickets, $275 on Titans tickets)
(Former) Rep. Mike Turner, D-Nashville: $3,354 on Titans tickets
Rep. Joe Armstrong, D-Knoxville: $1,685 on Titans tickets

Note: Two others mentioned in the article with no ticket totals are former Sen. Steve Cohen of Memphis, now a U.S. congressman, and state Sen. Reggie Tate, D-Memphis. DeBerry and Jones are deceased, both having died in office.

Armstrong, who is facing a trial on federal tax evasion charges, also reported buying $1,515 worth of University of Tennessee football game tickets in 2013 — not mentioned in the newspaper’s roundup of pro game ticket purchases. Armstrong’s campaign disclosure in 2012 describes the Titans expenditure as “ticket giveaways.”

Regardless of how they get their Titans tickets, legislators attending Nashville home games can attend “tailgate parties” hosted for years by the lobbying firm McMahan Winstead and its clients. In 2014, the firm reported to the Tennessee Ethics Commission hosting seven such events at a cost of about $1,300 each.

TN to refund $3.2M in ‘jock tax’ payments to hockey players

Hundreds of current and former NHL players should start getting refund checks this summer as part of a $3.32 million settlement with the state of Tennessee over a possibly unconstitutional “jock tax” tax on professional athletes, reports the Washington Post.

Started in 2009, Tennessee’s jock tax was unique for a few reasons. It was a flat tax: $2,500 per game in Tennessee for all NHL and NBA players, with a maximum tax bill of $7,500 per year.

While a $2,500 tax bill is not a hardship for players like Kobe Bryant, with his $23.5 million salary, for players making the league minimum – $507,336 this season, or $2,537 per day according to a 200-day work year – a trip to Tennessee to play the Memphis Grizzlies meant basically working for free.

Another way Tennessee’s tax was unusual: the money didn’t go to government, it went back to the Memphis Grizzlies and Nashville Predators. The clubs defended the tax – which generated $1.5 million to $2 million per year per club – as important money they used to lure big musical acts like Paul McCartney and Elton John for events that generated tax revenue for their cities. (Professional football was not included in Tennessee’s jock tax, so it did not apply to the Tennessee Titans or their opponents.)

The NHL players’ settlement, first reported by SportsBusiness Daily, will result in the Tennessee Department of Revenue cutting checks of between $1,250 and $11,250 for more than 800 current and former players hit with the tax between 2009 and 2012. Each player will get back about half of what he paid Tennessee.

A similar lawsuit filed by about 140 current and former NBA players is pending, according to Stephen Kidder, a tax lawyer representing the players. Last summer, the Tennessee Legislature repealed the tax, officially called the “Professional Privilege Tax on Professional Athletes.”

…The settlement in Tennessee comes just months after the Ohio Supreme Court struck down the city of Cleveland’s jock tax as unconstitutional. That ruling, issued in April, came after lawsuits filed by former NFL players Jeff Saturday and Hunter Hillenmeyer. Cleveland is challenging the ruling, which found the city unconstitutionally taxed athletes for work they performed when not actually in Cleveland.

Legislature poised to pass enhanced penalties for cockfighting

After decades of repeated rejection, legislation that would increase penalties for cockfighting in Tennessee seems poised for passage in the Tennessee General Assembly.

But some advocates for animal protection have again lost an attempt to reinstate state regulation of what they call “puppy mills,” large-scale operations for breeding dogs.

The bill to enhance penalties for animal fighting (SB1024) has already passed the Senate, as has similar legislation in the past. But this year the companion House bill has also cleared the House Agriculture Committee, which has historically been the roadblock to enactment despite the repeated efforts of sponsor Rep. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, in recent years.

Counting that key committee, the measure now has been blessed by five House committees and subcommittees and is on the Finance Committee agenda Tuesday. Approval there would set the stage for a final vote later this week or early next week as the General Assembly moves toward adjournment of the 2015 session.

In pushing passage this year, Lundberg focused in his presentations to committees on a provision that was not part of prior efforts — one declaring that those bringing a child under age 18 to an animal fight will be subject to a minimum penalty of $1,000.

As Tennessee law stands now, a spectator at a cockfight only can be convicted of a Class C misdemeanor, which has a minimum fine of $50. Other provisions of this year’s bill would increase the penalty for general spectators at an animal fight to a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $2,500 — though no minimum is set unless a child is involved.
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Senate OKs bill to block drones taking pictures at football games and such

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The state Senate has voted to ban drones from recording images above ticketed events with more than 100 people in attendance.

The bill sponsored by Republican Sen. Jack Johnson of Franklin (SB509) passed on a 33-0 vote on Thursday. Johnson said the measure had been requested by the NFL’s Tennessee Titans to prevent drones from flying over the team’s Nashville stadium during games.

The Senate bill also includes a ban on drones flying over correctional facilities or through fireworks displays. Those elements requested by the state sheriffs’ association and fire marshal’s office are not in the House version of the bill that passed on a 93-2 vote on Monday.

That means the two chambers will have to reconcile their difference before the measure can head for the governor’s consideration.

Majority Leader McCormick wants to buy a baseball team

While the Chattanooga Lookouts are under contract to be sold to a Warner Robins, Ga., businessman, a group of investors led by state House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, stands ready if the deal doesn’t go through, reports the Times-Free Press.

McCormick, a commercial real estate broker, confirmed the interest in an interview Thursday.

He said the group includes himself and Nashville businessman David Freeman, an owner of the Nashville Predators in the National Hockey League, as well as Richard Mashburn, an Ooltewah native who heads Mashburn Outdoor and lives in Atlanta.

“We’ve got a group of people with ties to Chattanooga whose interest is to purchase the Lookouts,” said McCormick, noting that Freeman’s father grew up in Chattanooga and was a Lookouts fan. “Certainly if that [current] deal goes through, all power to them. It belongs to the Burke family. They have every right to sell it to whomever they want to.”
The Times Free Press reported last month on owner Frank Burke’s plan to sell Chattanooga’s Class AA franchise to businessman John Hughes. Hughes was considering bringing minor league baseball to his own community as recently as March, but he is said to not be interested in moving the Lookouts out of Chattanooga
…McCormick said that if the sale goes through, “I certainly hope he [Hughes] is successful with it. I really hope he keeps it in Chattanooga, and I don’t have any reason to believe he wouldn’t. I don’t know him.

“What I know is we would love to have an opportunity if that doesn’t work out, and we have a commitment to keeping it in the community,” McCormick added.

UT Official: No State Money for Athletics

No academic funding or state money will be used to bail out the University of Tennessee athletics department should sagging ticket sales and the cost of a multimillion-dollar coaching change cause another budget deficit, officials tell the News Sentinel.
“We’ve made a strong statement that we’re not using state funds to backfill athletics,” said Chris Cimino, vice chancellor of finance. “We’ve done all we’re going to do.”
Last month, the school announced a three-year, $18 million reprieve in donations the athletics department makes to student scholarships, fellowships and discretionary academic funds.
In the meantime, the department is facing as much as $9.4 million to buy out former head football coach Derek Dooley and his staff, another $18.2 million over six years in salary for new coach Butch Jones, $3 million annually for new assistant football coaches and another $1.4 million to buy out Jones’ contract at the University of Cincinnati. Last year, the department reported a $4 million shortfall in its nearly $100 million annual budget.
“While it’s too early to state the exact situation 6½ months from now, our revenues and expenses are on par with what we expected at this point,” UT athletics department spokesman Jimmy Stanton said in a statement, referring to June budget projections.
To cut costs, 17 layoffs were announced in April as part of the consolidation of the women’s and men’s athletic departments. The changes resulted in a $2.5 million saving.