House Republicans strongly favor new federal regulations on sports gambling after the Supreme Court allowed states to open sports books.
At a hearing of a House Judiciary subcommittee, GOP members expressed concerns Thursday about advertisements and online gambling platforms targeting minors, as well as the potential for match-fixing.
“For Congress to do nothing is the worst possible alternative,” said Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican.
The hearing was the first Congress has held on the issue since the Supreme Court decision in June to strike down a law that limited sports gambling to four states, and full-service sports books only to Nevada. Since then, Delaware, New Jersey, Mississippi and West Virginia have legalized betting on pro and amateur sports, with more states considering adding sports books to their existing racetracks or casinos.
The prospect of federal action, however, is murky at best. No bill has been introduced that would enact the reforms discussed by Sensenbrenner and other GOP members, and the committee may have different priorities if Democrats take over the House in the midterm elections.
A gambling-industry representative and a Nevada regulator told the committee states were fully capable of regulating sports gambling on their own and said many of the fears about the ills of expanded sports gambling have not been realized.
The industry’s position is legalization is good for bettors and sports leagues because it will move sports betting from illegal offshore operators to licensed businesses that pay taxes and have consumer protections. Gambling proponents also argue match-fixing and other nefarious activities are easier to prevent and snuff out in a regulated market.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican and the Judiciary Committee chairman, said he thought there was a federal role to play in regulating online gambling because it can’t be contained within state borders.