Champion Red Sox owe nearly $12M in luxury tax
By RONALD BLUM
AP Baseball Writer
Saturday, December 15
NEW YORK (AP) — Boston should be happy to pay this tax bill.
The World Series champion Red Sox owe $11,951,091 in luxury tax for having baseball’s top payroll, according to final calculations by the commissioner’s office obtained by The Associated Press. The only other team that owes is the Washington Nationals, who must pay $2,386,097, their second straight year with a bill.
Because Boston was more than $40 million over the tax threshold, it became the first team to incur a new penalty put in place for the 2018 season: the top Red Sox selection in next June’s amateur draft will be dropped 10 places. Boston’s top pick had been projected to be No. 33 overall before the penalty.
Boston has owed tax in the years of three of its four titles this century, paying $3,148,962 in 2004 and $6,064,287 in 2007. The Red Sox stayed under the tax threshold when they won in 2013. The only other championship teams to owe since the tax began in 2003 were the 2009 New York Yankees at $25.7 million and the 2016 Chicago Cubs, at $2.96 million.
This year’s initial tax threshold was $197 million, counting payrolls by average annual values and including earned bonuses, adjustments for cash transactions and option buyouts and just over $14 million per team in benefits. Boston’s payroll for the tax was $239.5 million, exceeding the $237 million threshold that triggered the draft penalty. Washington’s was $205 million.
Boston boosted its payroll during spring training when it added slugger J.D. Martinez, who counted at $23.75 million on the tax payroll and then earned $700,000 in bonuses while leading the major leagues with 130 RBIs.
Ahead of the July 31 trade deadline, the Red Sox acquired World Series MVP Steve Pearce, who added $3,208,602 to the payroll, including a $50,000 Series MVP bonus; pitcher Nathan Eovaldi, who added $720,430 and became a key component to the title run with a pair of postseason wins and a six-inning relief outing in World Series Game 3 against the Los Angeles Dodgers; and second baseman Ian Kinsler, who added $3,766,666.
San Francisco had the third-highest payroll at $195.7 million followed by the Dodgers at $195 million — up from $182 million on opening day, The Dodgers had paid tax in each of the previous five seasons, a total of $149.6 million.
The Cubs were fifth at $193.3 million, and the Yankees sixth at $192.98 million — the first time the Yankees finished under the threshold after 15 consecutive years over that resulted in taxes totaling $341.1 million.
By dropping under the threshold, the Yankees and Dodgers reset their tax rates for 2019 and put themselves in better position to pursue a talented free-agent class that includes Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.
Boston has owed in nine of 16 seasons, a total of $37.1 million. The Red Sox paid in 2015 and ‘16, then dropped under the threshold by just over $3 million in 2017, resetting their tax rates to the lowest level this year. Boston paid at a 28.1 percent effective rate.
Washington is paying for the second straight season, raising its total to $3.8 million.
Only eight teams have gone over the tax threshold: Detroit paid $9 million over three seasons, San Francisco $8.9 million over three seasons and the Los Angeles Angels $927,000 in 2003.
Next year’s tax starts at $206 million, and Boston’s rates will rise from 20 percent to 30 percent on the first $20 million over, 32 percent to 42 percent on the next $20 million and 62.5 percent to 75 percent on any amount over $246 million.
Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski predicted Boston against will exceed all three thresholds next year.
Washington’s rate rises to 50 percent on the first $20 million over, 62 percent on the next $20 million and 95 percent on any amount over $246 million.
Checks for the competitive balance tax, as it is normally known, go to the commissioner’s office and are due by Jan. 21. The first $13 million of tax money is used to fund player benefits and 50 percent of the remainder will be used to fund player Individual Retirement Accounts. The other 50 percent of the remainder will be given to teams not over the tax threshold.
Final figures are still being calculated for regular payrolls, which include salaries, prorated shares of signing bonuses, earned bonuses and adjustments for cash transactions and option buyouts.
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As hunting declines, efforts grow to broaden the funding base for wildlife conservation
December 14, 2018
Assistant Professor, North Carolina State University
Lincoln Larson receives funding from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies.
Hunting is a seasonal ritual for more than 11 million Americans in fall and winter. For those whose quarry includes ducks, geese or other waterfowl, one essential item is a Federal Duck Stamp – one of the most innovative and influential conservation initiatives in U.S. history.
For more than 80 years, federal law has required all hunters age 16 and older to buy and carry the current season’s duck stamp in the field. The stamp costs US$25 and inspires an annual art and design contest. Ninety-eight cents of every dollar from stamp purchases goes into a fund to protect wetlands and wildlife habitat. Since the 1930s, duck stamps have raised over $1 billion to support the National Wildlife Refuge System.
Duck stamps represent a “user pay, user benefit” approach to funding conservation that is unique to North America, with hunters as the centerpiece. But this model works only if people hunt, and the number of hunters in the United States has significantly declined in recent decades.
My research on connections between people and nature shows that demographic and cultural trends are reshaping the modern landscape for hunting and other outdoor recreation activities. For wildlife managers and outdoor advocates, these shifts are raising questions about who will pay for conservation in the future.
Taxes and license fees
President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act in 1934. The program was proposed by Jay N. “Ding” Darling, a cartoonist, conservation pioneer and outdoorsman. Darling headed the agency that would become the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from 1934 to 1936 and drew the first duck stamp.
Other user-pay measures followed. The 1937 Pittman-Robertson Act imposed an 11 percent federal excise tax on sales of hunting gear and ammunition to support state wildlife conservation efforts. In 1950 the Dingell-Johnson Act placed a similar tax on fishing equipment and motor boat fuel. Today these taxes, along with duck stamps and license fees, raise roughly 60 percent of all revenue to support fish and wildlife conservation efforts yearly.
Broadening the conservation funding base
License fees and gear taxes target specific groups (hunters and anglers), but duck stamps could also appeal to other potential buyers, such as birdwatchers, photographers and stamp collectors. They serve as an annual pass to U.S. National Wildlife Refuges that charge entrance fees, and organizations such as the American Birding Association encourage birders to “make their voices heard” in wildlife conservation by purchasing duck stamps. However, there is very little information about whether and why birders actually buy the stamps.
To answer these questions, I worked with graduate student Nathan Shipley, NCSU colleague Caren Cooper and researchers from the National Audubon Society to survey thousands of birdwatchers participating in the society’s annual Christmas Bird Count. We found that just 14 percent of nonhunting bird count participants had purchased duck stamps in the past two years. Even among specialized birdwatchers who invested substantial time and money in birding, only 36 percent had bought the stamps.
These low numbers may reflect a general lack of knowledge about duck stamps and their purpose. For example, studies have shown that even waterfowl hunters know very little about the duck stamp’s role in wildlife conservation. Other research has found low awareness among nonhunting outdoor advocates about hunting’s links to environmental stewardship and conservation. And birders may be reluctant to buy something historically linked to hunting.
Wetland conservation video produced by Ducks Unlimited, a nonprofit formed by sportsmen in 1937 that conserves, restores and manages wetlands and associated habitats for North America’s waterfowl.
Despite ideological differences, however, both birdwatchers and hunters are more likely than nonrecreationists to engage in pro-environmental behaviors such as joining conservation organizations, volunteering to enhance wildlife habitat on public lands and donating money to support conservation. But while birdwatchers may be just as eager to contribute to conservation as hunters, our research indicates that duck stamps are not currently an effective way to financially engaging the birding community.
Recruiting new hunters
Since 2011, the number of big game hunters in the United States has decreased by 20 percent, and the total number of hunters has declined by over 2 million. This trend leaves wildlife managers two primary options for boosting conservation funding: Attract new hunters or find other revenue sources.
The first strategy, often referred to as R3 – recruitment, retention and reactivation – is rapidly gaining traction in the wildlife management world. My colleagues and I have spent much of the past five years studying nontraditional pathways into hunting, including growing interest in links between wild game meat and the local food movement.
Our current project, which spans 23 states, is exploring the potential impact of R3 efforts focused on college students. Preliminary results suggest that over 70 percent of college students support hunting. Roughly one in six plan to hunt in the future, and one in four would consider trying it.
Finding new revenue streams
However, other funding sources are also needed. As one example, in 2009 thousands of wildlife professionals, hunters, birdwatchers and other recreationists endorsed the Teaming with Wildlife Act, which would have introduced a new excise tax on nonconsumptive recreation gear such as binoculars, tents and kayaks. The bill failed to pass, largely due to limited support from retailers.
In 2016, the Blue Ribbon Panel on Sustaining America’s Fish & Wildlife Resources – a bipartisan group comprising leaders across government, industry and the nonprofit sector – released a report urging Congress to dedicate up to $1.3 billion annually in revenues from energy production and mining on federal lands and waters to support wildlife conservation. This recommendation has been integrated into the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, which was introduced in the House in December 2017 and the Senate in July 2018, and attracted bipartisan support in both chambers.
This approach also appears to be popular among future generations of voters. In our study of college students, we asked participants to evaluate nine potential options for funding wildlife conservation. The preferred strategy across all demographic subgroups, supported by over 80 percent of students, was requiring “companies that profit from natural resource extraction to contribute a portion of their annual revenue to conservation.”
Through duck stamps, excise taxes and license purchases, hunters (and anglers) will continue to play a critical role in the future of funding conservation. But other stakeholder groups, from birdwatchers to energy companies, can also contribute. If Congress passes the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, it could open a new chapter in North America’s innovative history of funding wildlife conservation.
New Jersey sports betting market closing in on $1B mark
By WAYNE PARRY
Wednesday, December 12
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey’s sports betting market is closing in on the $1 billion dollar mark after less than six months of operation.
Figures released Wednesday by the state Division of Gaming Enforcement show New Jersey’s casino and racetrack-based sports books took in over $330 million worth of bets in November.
Since sports betting began in mid-June, gamblers in the state have plunked down $928 million on sports events.
Jeff Gural, who runs the Meadowlands Racetrack in East Rutherford, near New York City, isn’t surprised at how quickly the market is growing.
“I was there Sunday, and the place was packed,” he said. “So many of those games went right down to the last minute. It was really exciting.”
He expects the track’s sports book will do even better once self-serve betting kiosks are installed around New Year’s Day to increase the number of betting portals.
FanDuel, which runs the Meadowlands sports book, called November “a history-making month” in which it doubled its revenue from the previous month.
New Jersey is at least putting itself in the same conversation as Nevada when it comes to sports betting. Nevada, which has offered legal sports betting for years, took in $1.8 billion worth of sports bets from mid-June through the end of October. For Delaware, that figure was $54.4 million.
Mississippi, which began sports betting in August, saw $70.8 million in bets between August and October, and West Virginia took in $9 million in bets from mid-August through mid-October.
Pennsylvania and Rhode Island just began sports betting in recent weeks.
New Jersey won a U.S. Supreme Court case in May clearing the way for all 50 states to offer legal sports betting should they chose to do so.
The $21.2 million that New Jersey sports books kept after paying out winning bets and accounting for expenses, along with another strong month of internet gambling, helped Atlantic City’s casinos post an increase of nearly 25 percent in gambling revenue in November, compared with a year ago.
The casinos won $257 million from gamblers in November. Internet gambling revenue was nearly $27 million, up nearly 31 percent from a year ago. (There are two more casinos operating this November in New Jersey than there were a year ago.)
Among sports betting providers in November, Resorts Digital ($7.1 million) narrowly took the lead from the Meadowlands Racetrack ($7 million). The Ocean Resort Casino was third at $2.8 million, and Monmouth Park Racetrack was fourth at $2.6 million.
The state received $2.4 million in sports betting taxes in November; since it began in mid-June, it has received nearly $8 million in such taxes.
Football bets have represented the largest share of sports betting action in New Jersey so far at $328 million. The sports books have held on to just under 6 percent of all bets in the state. They also have yet to account for bets on events that have not yet happened, like football’s Super Bowl in February, which are neither wins nor losses yet.
Most of New Jersey’s sports bets have been placed online ($539 million) compared with in person at a casino or racetrack ($388 million). Online sports bets are taxed at a higher rate than in-person bets in New Jersey.
Follow Wayne Parry at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC
Jeff Bridges to receive Cecil B. DeMille Award at Globes
Monday, December 17
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jeff Bridges may have once been considered as one of Hollywood’s most underappreciated actors, but next month’s Golden Globe Awards will showcase his life and illustrious career next month by bestowing him one of its highest honors.
Bridges will receive the Cecil B. DeMille Award during the 76th annual awards ceremony on Jan. 6, 2019, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association announced Monday. The actor been praised for starring in films including “Crazy Heart,” ”True Grit,” ”Hell or High Water” and “The Big Lebowski,” which became a cult classic thanks to his nonchalant, knit-sweater wearing character Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski.
HFPA President Meher Tatna said in a statement the Golden Globe winner has “captured hearts and minds” of audiences worldwide.
Bridges, 69, won a Globe in 2010 for best actor for his role in “Crazy Heart,” when he remarked at the time during his acceptance speech about “chipping away” at his underappreciated status. He went on to win an Academy Award that year, and also received previous Globe nominations for his performances in “Starman,” ”The Fisher King,” ”Contender” and “Hell or High Water.”
The DeMille Award is given annually to an “individual who has made an incredible impact on the world of entertainment.” Past recipients include Oprah Winfrey, Morgan Freeman, Meryl Streep, Jodie Foster, Barbra Streisand, Sidney Poitier and Lucille Ball.
The Globes next year is also adding the Carol Burnett Award, an accolade that focuses on life achievement in television. The inaugural award will go to the 85-year-old Burnett, a five-time winner at the Globes.
In 1983, Bridges founded the End Hunger Network, a nonprofit dedicated to feeding children globally.
Bridges co-executive produced the 1996 television film “Hidden in America,” which focused on poverty in America.
This year, he appeared in the mystery thriller “Bad Times at the El Royale” starring Chris Hemsworth, Jon Hamm and Dakota Johnson.
Indian troops enforce lockdown to foil Kashmir protest march
By AIJAZ HUSSAIN
SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Soldiers and police fanned out across Indian-controlled Kashmir on Monday (Dec. 17) to enforce a security lockdown for a second straight day to stop anti-India protests and foil a call by separatists for a march toward India’s main military garrison in the disputed region.
Government forces patrolled streets in the region’s main city of Srinagar and sealed off all the roads leading to India’s military garrison in the city.
Three Kashmiri leaders, known as the Joint Resistance Leadership, or JRL, called for Kashmiris to march to the army cantonment to protest the killings of seven civilians and three rebels during an Indian counterinsurgency operation over the weekend.
Police and paramilitary soldiers in riot gear and carrying automatic rifles laid steel barricades and coiled razor wire on roads and intersections to cut off neighborhoods in a bid to stop protests.
Defying restrictions, dozens of activists, some wearing symbolic shrouds imprinted with the words: “Indian army, kill us all,” marched in Srinagar’s main business hub. Police detained Mohammed Yasin Malik, one of the leaders of the JRL, and about half a dozen others, leading to scuffles and clashes during which troops fired tear gas and protesters threw stones, police said.
Authorities also stopped train services and suspended internet on cellphones in the region, a common tactic to make organizing protests more difficult and stop dissemination of protest videos by Kashmiris.
Shops and businesses in other areas with no security restrictions closed in a show of solidarity with those protesting Indian rule.
The killings and injuries of more than three dozen civilians on Saturday angered Kashmiris and sparked protests and clashes at several places in the region. Residents accused troops of directly spraying gunfire into the crowds and killing at least two civilians, including a teenage student, away from the battle site.
Police said in a statement that they regretted the killings but that the protesters had come “dangerously close” to the fighting.
Separatists who challenge India’s sovereignty over Kashmir said the killings were part of India’s state policy and called for three days of mourning and a general shutdown in Kashmir apart from Monday’s public march.
The Indian army has appealed for people to not heed the call. The army said in a statement that it was “fighting terrorism and proxy war sponsored by Pakistan and its proxies in Kashmir,” adding that its objective “is to bring peace and normalcy” in Kashmir.
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s army spokesman Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor condemned what he called “state sponsored terrorism” by Indian forces in Kashmir, saying “bullets can never suppress unarmed brave freedom fighters.”
He said on Twitter that the “Indian Army must respect ethics of professional soldiering.”
India and Pakistan each administer part of Kashmir, but both claim the region in its entirety. Rebels have been fighting Indian control since 1989. Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.
Kashmiris deeply resent Indian rule and support the rebels’ call that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.
In recent years, mainly young Kashmiris have displayed open solidarity with the rebels and sought to protect them by engaging troops in street clashes during India’s counterinsurgency operations despite repeated warnings from Indian authorities.
Associated Press Writer Munir Ahmed in Islamabad, Pakistan contributed to this story.