Lobbies take sports betting to federal level

USA
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From age restrictions to integrity measures, even a rewriting of the Wire Act, US stakeholders have been taking their sports betting demands to Congress in September.

Demands have been building for federal regulation of betting through September, as the four major sports leagues look to Congress for integrity protections.

Democrat Chuck Schumer and Republican Orrin Hatch have proposed two different models of federal oversight; Schumer’s, the more comprehensive of the two, has been backed by a joint letter from all four leagues.

Meanwhile a (predominantly Republican) Judiciary subcommittee on crime terrorism and home-land security held 27 September appeared largely in favour of both short term and “more permanent” action from Congress.

To do nothing is “the worst possible alternative,” the committee chair, Rep. Jim Sensen-brenner, said in his concluding remarks.

“We have some work to do, and I’m looking forward to working with you to try to come up with something both short term and something more permanent to deal with this issue. I’m afraid if we don’t, there are going to be people who get hurt and get hurt badly.”

The committee’s purpose was merely to gather information, however. And of the 17 members sitting on the committee, not one represented a state that had legalislated on sports betting already.

Lobbyist Jocelyn Moore spoke on behalf of the NFL making the case for operators only using official league data (a proposal shared by Schumer), and giving leagues a veto on the “risky” practice of in-play betting. The leagues also favoured limiting betting to over 21s, she said, and ramping up enforcement against the black market.

Sheldon Adelson’s Campaign to Stop Internet Gambling also made an appearance in the form of Joe Bruning, who banged the drum for the 1961 Wire Act to be “restored” to its pre-2011 interpretation: a federal ban of online gambling.

Outside the subcommittee, arguments are being made to “modernise” (rather that wind back) the 1961 statute which, despite describing a technological world that no longer exists, continues to influence the shape and size of US betting evolution, particularly in regards to cross-border activity.

However the odds of federal intervention anytime soon are slim, says Michael Pollock, managing director at Spectrum Gaming Group.

Not only would opposition from the states (many of whom have managed to regulate gaming themselves successfully for many years) would be “visceral”, Pollock predicts.

But given the US in the middle of a “heated campaign season”, imposing supra-state betting laws is not going to “advance anyone’s cause” right now – and is “unlikely to move quickly to the top of anyone’s agenda” in the next session either.


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