Bipartisan Sports Betting Bill Ready for Congress
It’s been in the works for months. In fact, it’s been in the minds of some members of Congress since the moment the United States Supreme Court overturned PASPA in May 2018, allowing states to regulate sports betting per their constituents’ wishes.
After months of talking about it and fairly limited time to draft the legislation, two prominent senators have turned a draft into a bipartisan bill that is ready to introduce for consideration in the US Senate upon the commencement of a new session in January. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, and senior Republican Senator Orrin Hatch joined forces to push for federal oversight of the sports betting industry in America.
Numerous states beg to differ. More than a handful have already legalized sports betting within their borders, and many more are considering legislation in January, or at least assembling proposals to introduce in their respective state legislatures.
Wasting No Time
Officially, Congress does not reconvene in Washington, D.C. until January 3 to begin the new 2019 session. It is unclear if a bill can be introduced prior to that time if Congress is not in session during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, but there is virtually no chance that a bill could be passed during that week anyway.
This matters because Hatch, one half of the authorship duo of the sports betting bill, is retiring from Congress and will not return on January 3 to the Senate.
Even so, the bipartisanship nature of the bill and general consensus on Capitol Hill that Congress should regulate sports betting to a serious degree means that any bill of this nature will have a good chance of passage in the next session. The copy of the bill – now called the “Sports Wagering Market Integrity Act of 2018” – provides a strong basis for whatever legislation is actually introduced in 2019.
With DC being in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol, it is vital that it gets sports betting right. Congress will be watching and just today a bill has been floated to impose federal requirements and approvals on states that want to regulate sports betting. https://t.co/Wq70sMyMoA
— Poker Alliance (@ppapoker) December 5, 2018
The Sports Wagering Market Integrity Act of 2018, as it is currently written, will allow states to determine if and how they will individually regulate sports betting, but Congress will provide overall guidelines. The new bill will also give the federal government the authority to monitor the markets for unauthorized operators, illegal activity, and proper data usage.
The Hatch-Schumer bill would require betting operators to use only data licensed and provided by the leagues to determine the outcome of wagers, at least until the end of 2024. Why? Sounds like a gift to the leagues' coffers to me. https://t.co/xJ2p0IXbuC
— Mark Conrad (@Sportslaw1) December 20, 2018
Some of the details of the bill include a prohibition on most amateur sporting events, a standard requirement that bettors be 21 years of age or older, a ban on bets by those associated with sports leagues and clubs, and a monitoring of individuals deemed a danger to the industry due to past criminal behavior related to sports betting.
The bill will allow states to partner with each other for interstate wagering, though that will require an update to the 1961 Wire Act.
In addition, a National Sports Wagering Clearinghouse will be established to collect and monitor sports wagering data from around the country, information that will be shared with operators, regulators, sports leagues, and law enforcement agencies. The data will reportedly be anonymous and not store any personal information related to said wagers, but concerns will likely abound with relation to internet freedoms and privacy concerns.
Many members of Congress have yet to weigh in on the Sports Wagering Market Integrity Act, as it was introduced just days before the Senate became embroiled in talks with President Trump that ended in a partial government shutdown that continues through the end of 2018.
The American Gaming Association, however, wasted no time in releasing a formal response. AGA Vice President of Public Affairs Sara Slane said, “This bill is the epitome of a solution in search of a problem, representing an unprecedented and inappropriate expansion of federal involvement in the gaming industry, which is currently one of the most strictly regulated in the country.”
AGA Opposes Federal Government Overreach on Sports Betting https://t.co/tnwD2rgFk8
— American Gaming Association (@AmericanGaming) December 19, 2018
Further, Slane contests that states are better equipped to deal with sports betting operators, sports leagues, and associated businesses on a market-by-market basis. Congress should not set and monitor official league data and betting patterns. Since the AGA speaks for most casinos in the US, the organization may be able to influence some legislators.
Meanwhile, however, sports leagues and organizations generally support federal oversight of the industry, as it is easier for them to influence members of one governmental body than to try the same with lawmakers in the majority of the 50 states. And there is a great deal of money behind those lobbying efforts. Congress hears money.
Billy Daly, NHL deputy commissioner: "We have not yet had an opportunity to review the proposed legislation in detail but conceptually we support the prospect of having a uniform federal framework for sports betting."https://t.co/0Hiy98I0ao
— David Schoen 🗞 (@DavidSchoenLVRJ) December 20, 2018
More responses to the bill will likely emerge when the bill is officially introduced. This is likely to happen in the first few weeks of 2019. It is unclear who will co-author the legislation with Schumer, but as long as it remains a bipartisan effort, it keeps the odds in its favor to pass.