Geoff Freeman of the AGA Predicts the Next US President Will Legalize Sports Betting
Geoff Freeman of the American Gaming Association predicted the next president of the United States would have a sports gambling bill on their desk sometime in their first term. Given the estimated windfall of $148.8 billion a year which the AGA believes is wagered on illegal sports betting each year, Freeman believes economics and changing values in American society will dictate the changes in gaming laws.
That is what Geoff Freeman told Trib Live last week during a visit to Pittsburgh, in which he said, “The next president is going to have that issue of legalizing sports betting on their desk, and I’m confident they’ll make the right decision. It’s time for a fresh, rational approach to sports betting that reflects…reality.”
Overturn the PASPA Law
If the president signed a sports betting law into effect, he or she would overturn the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992. That bill made sports betting illegal in 46 states, while allowing four states to keep their pre-PASPA sports betting under a grandfather clause. The PASPA allows limited sports gambling in Delaware, Oregon, and Montana, which gives Nevada a virtual monopoly on sports betting in the United States.
The American Gaming Association has released reports suggesting only 1% to 3% of all sports betting done in the country is handled by legal sportsbooks in Las Vegas and elsewhere in Nevada. The vast bulk of gambling is done through illegal bookmakers (bookies) and offshore online sportsbooks. The offshore sites are illegal, but beyond the ability of US authorities to stop. In fact, the WTO has ruled that American officials’ attempts to enforce US gambling laws against such companies is illegal under international law.
Boost Tax Revenues
Americans tend to have a unique view of sovereignty, whether they are public officials or private citizens. But the United States government always needs more tax revenues and unfettered sports betting would allowed vast new taxes to be collected.
The AGA estimated that $9.2 billion was wagered over 3 weekends of March Madness this year. Only $261 million of that revenue went through Las Vegas casinos, though. Federal legalization likely would mean dozens of US states would have licensed, regulated, and taxed sports betting.
New Jersey’s Challenge of the PASPA
New Jersey has been challenging the PASPA since 2012. The people of New Jersey voted in a statewide referendum in 2011 that they wanted to legalize a sportsbook. That opened the door to a legal challenge by the American sports associations: NFL football, MLB baseball, NBA basketball, NHL hockey, and NCAA sports. The sports leagues have won 4 distinct rounds of legal battles, but some believe New Jersey could overturn the law.
It currently has a case being litigated before an “en banc” panel of judges in Philadelphia’s 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals. En banc rulings are rare, so the fact the court agreed to such an appellate decision means it has a chance to overturn the PASPA law.
Violating the Commerce Clause
New Jersey’s lawyers argue that the PASPA law is unconstitutional, because it violates the “Commerce Clause” of the US Constitution. The Commerce Clause states that the federal government is only supposed to intervene in interstate commerce in order to make trade fairer. The PASPA would seem to be an interference which makes a one-sided law, giving certain states advantages over the remainder of the states.
Pennsylvania lawmakers have suggested they would like to legalize sports betting, if ever it became legal under federal law. Meanwhile, Delaware (which has legal parlays) says it would like to bring its sports betting to the Internet. Currently, Delaware is one of 3 states which has legal online gambling, too.
The Next POTUS’s Agenda
The next U.S. president is going to have plenty to concern themselves with, besides sports betting. Donald Trump claims he will build a 1,900-mile wall across the US-Mexico border (and make Mexico pay for it). He also says he’ll impose a 45% tariff on Chinese imports (and increase the price of Wal-Mart products by 45%) to offset China’s manipulation of its currency to flood the American market with cheap products.
Ted Cruz says he wants to abolish the IRS and establish a flat tax of 10%, so Americans can do their taxes “on a note card”. Bernie Sanders says he wants to tax the wealthiest 1% of Americans at an 80% tax rate, like the income tax rates of the 1950s. With all these promises, sports betting is likely to be low on the agenda. Of course, the UIGEA was low on the agenda, too, as it was attached to a popular bill (the Safe Port Act) as an afterthought.
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