State Rep Alan Morrison Introduces Pro-Sports Gambling Bills in Indiana
State Representative Alan Morrison introduced two bills today on the floor of the Indiana that would legalize sports gambling in the state. Alan Morrison says he sees the national trend heading towards unfettered sports gambling. He also sees the rise in daily online fantasy sports betting. Both of these trends are unmistakable, says Rep. Morrison, and he believes the state of Indiana deserves a cut of the action.
House Bill 1073 and 1074
House Bill 1073 allows the state’s racetrack casinos (“racinos”) and off-track betting locations to allow sports betting, much like the state of New Jersey wanted to open a sportsbook at Monmouth Park. That bill would only go into effect if the Indiana Gaming Commission says it’s permissible under federal law, according to the controversial PASPA law.
House Bill 1074 would permit racinos to offer one-day fantasy sports games, which are played on websites like FanDuel and DraftKings. The effected gaming sites would be the Indiana Grand Racing and Casino in Shelbyville, as well as Hoosier Park Racing & Casino in Anderson.
Reversing the Revenue Trends
State Representative Morrison says that his bills would help to reverse a negative trend in the Indiana gaming industry. Land-based gaming facilities have seen a decline in revenues, but Morrison believes sports gambling could help reverse the trends.
He added, “Gaming is something that this state has become extremely reliant upon, that revenue. As it’s been trending down, it’s incumbent upon us to figure out how to fix it or to improve on what we have.”
At present, only four states are allowed under federal law to regulate sports betting: Nevada, Oregon, Montana, and Delaware. The other 46 states are banned under federal law from authorizing sportsbooks. The law which pertains to federal sports betting is the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PAPSA).
Sports Leagues’ Argument
PASPA was written largely at the behest of the American pro sports leagues, including the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball, and NHL. Those leagues said sports betting would undermine the integrity of their sports, because U.S. sports fans would assume games were fixed.
The leagues wanted sports betting ended in all 50 states, but they received a fight from the four states which already had legalized sports gambling. After both sides lobbied the U.S. Congress, both houses decided to grandfather in the four states which had sports gambling.
Hypocrisy of the PASPA
Compromise is a key facet of American politics. Over the years, though, that decision has rankled other states. They believe four states were given an unfair advantage under the law. They also realized that the sports leagues’ very reason for wanting PASPA was undermined by the law. Sports betting in Nevada never undermined those sports–they’re stronger than ever, despite 22 years of gambling on the games.
Furthermore, many lawyers believes the PASPA law is unconstitutional under the “Commerce Clause” of the U.S. Constitution. In the Constitution, it states that the federal government should foster fair and equal trade between the states–not give one set of states built-in advantages over the others. Thus, the PASPA goes against the spirit of the Commerce Clause.
New Jersey’s Challenge
In 2011, the people of New Jersey voted in favor of legalizing sportsbooks in the state. That led to a lawsuit by the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, and NCAA. The leagues won several legal decisions against New Jersey, before the case went before the U.S. Supreme Court. The court declined to see the case in June 2014, which seemed to put the matter at an end.
Then New Jersey took an interpretation set forward by the U.S. Third Court of Appeals that states could not license and regulate sportsbooks, but they could essentially look the other way when sportsbooks were in operation. New Jersey’s legislature repealed its gaming laws, while Chris Christie said he would look the other way as New Jersey racetracks like Monmouth Park operated sportsbooks. The leagues filed a new lawsuit.
Currently, the leagues have a restraining order against sports betting at Monmouth Park. But soon, that case will be appealed to the U.S. Third Court of Appeals. It’s unknown what the decision will be, but given the earlier opinion, it might well legalize sports betting in New Jersey.
Following New Jersey’s Example
If so, then Alan Morrison’s bills will be in place to follow New Jersey. It could be that dozens of states might eventually legalize sports betting. Most U.S. states have budget shortfalls. Few legislators believe the rhetoric that sports gambling would destroy the NFL, NBA, and professional baseball. Therefore, Alan Morrison appears to be riding the trends.
Morrison says it’s important to be one of the first states to embrace a change in the law. It would give Indiana a head-start in collecting revenues, while perhaps establishing brand names as the first startups in a powerful new gaming industry: daily online sports betting.
Morrison added, “If it were to (become legal) in July, let’s say, that would back us up another year before we could start the process. So if we have it on the books, where it’s up to our Gaming Commission, then we’d be ahead of the game on that.“
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