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New York Governor's office responds to new MMA bill

Peter Lampasona
22 January 2010
New York Governor's office responds to new MMA bill
This Tuesday, New York State Governor David Paterson announced his new budget proposal which did, in spite of earlier hesitation to commit to the stance, contain a bill that would sanction mixed martial arts in the state of New York. A representative from the governor’s budget office confirmed today that it is the governor’s intention to have his bill replace the one currently in the state assembly, as well as issuing a statement regarding differences between his bill and the one that seemed on the verge of finally passing through the assembly. Most of the substantive changes to the bill have been financial. The rate of tax for ticket sales saw a marginal increase and taxes on broadcast rights were adjusted, accordingly. Further, higher monetary penalties were added for MMA promoters who violate protocol set in the bill.

The changes all equal to the governor’s office projecting 2.1 million dollars in direct revenue MMA could generate for the state in 2010, alone. While only a drop in the bucket of the governor’s overall attempt to cure New York’s deficit spending, the 2.1 million figure does make a strong case for the usefulness of MMA to the state.

While the increase in ticket sale taxes is a concern to smaller promotions that do not get the benefit of Pay Per View buys, most of the fire that the bill has come under has been due to its content regarding the management of MMA in the state of New York.

The previous bill for sanctioning MMA that Governor Paterson seeks to replace contained no stipulations for the regulation of amateur MMA. Paterson’s bill makes no attempt to correct what is considered the big failing of the previous legislation. In fact, the new bill defines a professional mixed martial artist as an MMA participant who is paid.

This wording in the bill provides a loophole where unpaid amateurs will legally be allowed to fight in New York, with no standards set for amateur promotions. The situation makes amateur fighters susceptible to unethical promoters and leaves legitimate promoters of amateur events without a set of legal rights and standards should they seek to put on recognized amateur bouts in New York.

Another point in the bill that has been a source for criticism is the stipulation regarding mismatches. All commissions sanctioning MMA in the United States have some form of right to not license a bout if it is not going to be a competitive fight. Recently, the state of Florida utilized this right by denying Strikeforce rising star Bobby Lashley the journeyman opponent originally planned for his Strikeforce debut. However, the governor’s bill explicitly states that the State Athletic Commission is not allowed to intervene “solely on the basis of the difference between respective participant’s martial arts disciplines.”

This portion of the bill shows a real legal ignorance that MMA is a sport separate and distinct from other martial competitions. By the bill’s wording, a match between James Toney and Brock Lesnar not only is legitimate, but the commission can do nothing to question its legitimacy because both Toney and Lesnar are champions of something.

“As with all proposed legislation, the governor welcomes input from all interested parties before in the matter before anything is finalized,” the governor’s budget office representative said in response to criticisms of the legislation as it stands. “It is a proposal, and can see some changes before it comes to [the state legislature for vote].”
Last Modified:
12 November 2010

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