The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations heard testimony regarding whether the federal government should step in to regulate the supports betting industry created in the wake of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of Christi vs, NCAA, which opened the doors on legalized sports betting nationwide by overturning the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA).
The hearing, entitled “Post PASPA: An Examination of Sports Betting in America”, which invited five professionals to give testimony, was said by gambling industry advocates to be heaving weighted in favour of those who oppose all expanded gambling.
House Republicans came out strongly in favour of regulating sports betting at the federal level, raising concerns about match fixing and minors exposure to gambling.
“For Congress to do nothing is the worst possible alternative,” said Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican as reported in East Texas Matters media outlet. “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.”
NFL favors regulation
The National Football League has also weighed in to support federal regulations. In prepared comments published before the hearing, Jocelyn Moore, the NFL’s executive vide president of communications, stated, “Without continued federal guidance and oversight we are very concerned that sports leagues and state government alone will not be able to fully protect the integrity of sports contests.”
Moore would go on to use the word “integrity” 24 times in her seven-page prepared statement. She also advocated for the league having control of all official statistics used in the industry.
“Consumers who choose to place wagers should know data is timely, accurate, consistent across markets – which can only be assured if the data comes from sports leagues or their licensees,” Moore said.
Moore’s testimony comes as major U.S. sports leagues are pressuring the industry in hopes of federal regulations that will ensure they get a larger slice of the estimated $150 billion legalized sports betting market.
Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning, speaking for the Coalition to Stop Online Gambling also gave testimony aimed at securing greater federal regulation. As the spokesperson for billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, Bruning is the mouthpiece for Adleson’s attempts to completely destroy all online gambling in the United States. Adelson, a GOP fundraiser and buddy of Donald Trump, has famously stated that he would “spend whatever it takes” to defeat online gambling.
Burning’s testimony focused on comparing the regulation of online gambling with legalized marijuana use in certain states, which he called unconstitutional.
“[L]et’s not forget the rights of states in which marijuana is illegal,” Bruning said as reported by Card Player. “Since marijuana was legalized in Colorado, Nebraska law enforcement has been overwhelmed with the amount of illegal marijuana flooding into the state […] As Attorney General, I filed an original action against Colorado in the U.S. Supreme Court asking the Court to declare Colorado’s marijuana laws violated the U.S. Constitution. But the Supreme Court refused to take our case. And to this day, Nebraskans continue to suffer from Colorado’s legalization of marijuana with no legal recourse.”
He claimed that the “same harm will come to Nebraska” when states legalize online sports betting. “Nebraska will be compelled to rely on the good graces, and regulatory capabilities, of those states that have legalized online sports betting,” he said.
As part of Adelson’s crusade against online gambling, Bruning’s testimony intentionally left out the fact that states in which online gambling is legal, including Nevada, Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania have not reported any problems with illegal attempts to gamble from other states thanks in large part of cutting-edge geo-location technology, able to identify in-state vs out-of-state bettors.
Gambling industry fights back
Despite the lopsided nature of the hearing, with two industry representatives present, Sara Slane from the American Gaming Association and Becky Harries, Chair of the Nevada Gaming Control Board, beside three anti-gambling advocates, the industry fought back with Slane stating, “The bottom line is, with such robust and rigorous regulatory oversight at both the state and federal levels, there is no need to overcomplicate or interfere with a system that is already working.”
Ms. Harris went on to add, “We have been in this business for decades and haven’t had any problems. What we have here is a regulatory process specifically to monitor what happens on both sides of the counter. This is all we do, and we’re good at it.”
Furthermore, the Washington Examiner published an op-ed piece after the hearing written by Chuck Canterbury, president of the nation’s largest law enforcement labor group, the Fraternal Order of Police, who wrote, “The 25-year-old federal prohibition on sports betting … was not only ineffective at preventing illegal sports betting, but it was actually helping to facilitate it. Today, millions of Americans bet on sports through a massive illegal market that operates outside the reach of law enforcement with no regulatory oversight, no means of protecting the integrity of the games, and no safeguards for consumers.”
He concluded by saying that “PASPA’s resounding failure has taught us a valuable lesson: Federal oversight is not the solution.”
Republicans, however were not to be easily deterred, with Representative Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican stating, “I do not believe gambling is a victimless activity. I think that online gambling, in particular, can be more destructive to the families and communities of addictive gamblers than if a brick-and-mortar casino were built next door.”
Wisconsin Republican and Subcommittee Chair Jim Sensenbrenner, an advocate of federal regulation, ended the hearing by saying, “I think the one thing you all agree on is that for Congress to do nothing is the worst possible alternative. This means we have some work to do.”