Brookfield, WI—Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-05) sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler urging the EPA to reconsider its plan to expand the sale of E15 motor fuel.

Rep. Sensenbrenner: “The Renewable Fuel Standard violates free market principles, puts consumers at risk, and is harmful to the environment. Expanding the sale of E15 will increase the danger of misfueling, causing damage to engines and voiding consumer warranties. I urge the EPA not to move forward with this plan.”


Congress first established the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) under the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The policy now requires that ethanol be blended into motor fuel at increasing levels each year. Currently, fuel can be produced and sold with a blend of 15 percent ethanol (E15). However, due to environmental regulations, E15 fuel cannot be sold during summer months. The Trump administration recently announced plans to lift the restrictions and allow for E15 sale year-round.

You can view the full text of the letter below:

October 11, 2018

The Honorable Andrew Wheeler
Acting Administrator
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20460

Dear Acting Administrator Wheeler:

I write to you with significant concerns about the recent proposal to expand the sale of E15 motor fuel.  The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) has been in place for more than a decade, yet this policy continues to violate the free market and pose a threat to consumers. Expanding to year-round E15 sales would prop up the RFS and continue to subject American consumers and farmers to government-mandated decision making.

I have had a very active role in the debate surrounding fuel blends with higher ethanol contents. Through this work, I have had ongoing conversations with many interested parties—your predecessors at the EPA, industry representatives, consumer groups, and environmental advocates. My work on this issue has always been driven by the belief that the government should not mandate the use of any product—or fuel—and the country would be better served if the RFS mandates are removed completely. Since this is as much a political debate as a policy-centered one, I recognize the barriers to a complete overhaul of the RFS. However, I would like to highlight some of the most glaring issues and how they will be exacerbated by the expanded sale of E15.

Contrary to the special interest arguments, the RFS is unfriendly to consumers. Misfueling with E15 is dangerous for many common machines. For example, lawnmowers, boats, snowmobiles, motorcycles, and vintage automobiles are incompatible with this fuel blend. The EPA acknowledged these issues in the original waiver permitting the use of E15 in newer automobiles. However, there has been insufficient work done to mitigate the potential for misfueling. Allowing for the expanded availability of E15 sales puts American consumers in greater jeopardy of the dangers of misfueling and product failure.

Free markets drive American innovation and sustain our economy. However, the RFS policy is antithetical to free market principles. The complex, government-mandated market for renewable blending credits is ripe for fraud.  Additionally, the EPA’s use of its broad authority to grant exemptions from blending obligations demonstrates the standard’s unattainability. Furthermore, approximately 40 percent of domestic corn production now feeds into ethanol production, meaning a not-insignificant portion of American farmers are subject to the whims of government policy.  Rural America needs sustained, dependable growth, rather than programmed agricultural outputs generated by political motivations. The United States must return to its historical reliance on market-driven outcomes.

The RFS was established to strengthen national security by reducing dependence on foreign energy supplies. As an added benefit, it was also touted as decreasing the environmental impacts of automobile use. Some research questions whether increased farming activity correlated with the RFS cancels out its expected environmental benefits.

I understand some industries have exerted significant political pressure to convince the EPA to expand the E15 waiver. However, I urge you to consider the RFS’s legacy before propping up this overly-rigid, failed energy policy.


Member of Congress 

By: Casino Betting News

House Republicans are in favor of new federal regulations on the sports betting industry, but growing concerns about advertising and minors’ exposure to the industry cannot be thwarted so soon. Heightened activity in Washington for the federal law currently appears to be on track.

At a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on Thursday, GOP members shared concerns about sports gambling targeting minors and the industry’s potential to fix matches. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, Wisconsin Republican countered the arguments saying that Congress’ inactivity is the worst possible alternative in this situation.

The hearing was the first since Supreme Court’s June decision to allow states to open sportsbooks. Full-service sportsbooks have been in operation in Nevada, but the apex court’s decision has led Delaware, West Virginia, Mississippi and New Jersey to legalize betting on pro and amateur sports. Different rules and tax rates in different states could make the prospects of sports betting operators dim.

It could also leave sports leagues fiddling with regulations in different states. They have requested lawmakers for uniform standards for state-level regulatory bodies and also to make 21 years the minimum betting age. Their most important proposal is to let sportsbooks use official league data while limiting in-game prop bets.

The American Gaming Association was represented by Sara Slane at the hearing. The organization favors state-by-state sports betting regulations as additional taxes on casinos could be damaging to their existence. In the absence of better margins, these entities could be forced out of business. The executive director of Stop Predatory Gambling Les Bernal, on the other hand, said that gambling must be restricted to as much extent as possible, including a strict limit on advertising. Bernal noted that Americans could lose $1 trillion of wealth in the next eight years through government-sanctioned gambling.

Interestingly, no bill has been introduced by the GOP members that include all these proposals. The ill-effects of a nationwide sports betting policy may still not be fully comprehended by the lawmakers. While the industry suggests that legalization and federal regulation is good as it will help licensed, tax-paying businesses flourish. It will help in providing better consumer protection and avoid nefarious activities that take place in illegal betting markets.

Chairman of the Judiciary Committee Rep and Virginia Republican Bob Goodlatte said that online gambling could not be contained within state borders, which makes federal action essential. The tension over the consequences of federal regulation was evident at the hearing. Though it appears likely that GOP members would prefer to push for federal regulations, supported by sports leagues, the final look of the regulation is still unclear.

By: Kim Yuhl of Play Pennsylvania

Last week, while the Senate was making headlines with Supreme Court hearings, the other chamber talked sports betting.

The House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigation hosted the hearing “Post-PASPA: An Examination of Sports Betting in America.”

The committee invited expert testimony to help decide where sports betting regulations belong – with the states or the federal government.

The hearing and its timing couldn’t be more interesting. Pennsylvania is almost ready to offer online sports betting and online gaming. Not to mention, four other states launched legal sports betting post-PASPA in recent months.

So why now? Well, the NFL may have had something to do with that.


As expected, the NFL was invited to provide testimonyJocelyn Moore, executive vice president, communications and public affairs, National Football League, made sure everyone knew the NFL supports federal sports betting regulations.

The NFL and the major sports leagues, along with the NCAA fought to keep sports betting from becoming legal outside of Nevada. After losing the war, it was obvious the league was looking for ways to capitalize on a new reality.

After several failed attempts to secure integrity fees at the state level, the NFL turned its lobbying efforts towards the federal government. When the Supreme Court found PASPA unconstitutional, it opened the door for states to regulate sports betting in the absence of federal regulations.

In her testimony, Moore contends “issues generated by sports betting cannot be confined within state lines.” As such, Moore believes sports betting is an interstate issue warranting federal regulations.

“While state regulators clearly have an important role to play in a post-PASPA environment, the federal government has primary authority regarding interstate commerce, interstate law enforcement, and international sanctions against corruption and money laundering.”


What Moore fails to mention is that technology has advanced significantly since PASPA first became law in 1992. Geolocating technology is highly effective. One only has to look towards Nevada and its eight years of on online sports betting history as proof.

Each of the new states that have come online in recent months has implemented strict geolocation regulations to ensure sports bettors are betting within the state lines.

In preparation for its online launch of gaming and sports betting, Pennsylvania has similar regulations in place. In fact, Penn National has already teamed up with GeoComply to ensure players are where they say they are.

Moore goes on to provide a suggested outline for federal regulations. Somehow, though, it feels as if the NFL is more intent on protecting how its image and data. Safeguarding consumers against the “dangers of sports betting” seems like an afterthought. Of course, the NFL believes that kind of protection comes with a fee to ensure the integrity of the game.


The sports betting hearing is unlikely to result in any meaningful movement before PA launches legal sports betting.

Currently, there are five sports betting licenses under review in the Keystone State:

The next Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) meeting is on Oct. 3. Translation: PA legalized sports betting is likely to become a reality sooner rather than later.

The sports betting hearing concluded with Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) saying:

“I think the one thing that all of you agree on, is that for Congress to do nothing is the worst possible alternative.

“So this means 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. Because I’m afraid if we don’t, there are going to be some people that get hurt — and hurt very badly.”

For now, states that are in the midst of enacting sports betting legislation, PA included, are staying the course.

First of all, not everyone agrees sports betting regulations belongs at the federal level. Secondly, the current legislature has not been entirely effective in actually legislating in a timely manner.

In all fairness, Moore did an admirable job in representing the NFL’s interests. Unfortunately, those interests conflict with the states, the sports betting industry, and most importantly with sports bettors.

By: John Brennan of US BETS

After mainly focusing on Thursday on what five speakers had to say at a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee hearing on U.S. sports betting legalization in Washington, D.C., we are following up by looking closely at how the House members asking them questions addressed the topic.

Some of them ranged a bit far afield, and there was no real consensus on how to approach this issue in the wake of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in May that wiped out a near-total ban on legal sports gambling that had been passed by Congress in 1992.

But some clues were provided that could give us a better idea on what directions this committee might consider going in the future.

Congress’ trump card on sports betting

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, a 75-year-old Republican from Wisconsin, ran the meeting as chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations. Sensenbrenner mentioned in passing one of the most misunderstood aspects of the Supreme Court’s voiding of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992: the fact that “Congress can regulate sports betting directly.”

Where PASPA failed, according to the 6-3 ruling on May 14, was by improperly “commandeering” states into doing the federal government’s bidding in enforcing the law. Sports betting legalization advocates should keep an eye out for any Congress member who pushes forward a bill for a 50-state ban — something Congress can do, all sides agreed during New Jersey’s battle with five major professional and collegiate sports organizations that began in 2012.

Sensenbrenner mentioned another option as “the free market” concept that defers sports betting choices to the states, which of course is the new status quo. A third possibility, Sensenbrenner said, is for Congress to “adopt uniform minimum standards” for states to follow.

He said that his “personal view” is that there will be a huge temptation to “throw games” — whether it be players or officials who are tempted. Something (Sensenbrenner didn’t specify what) needs to be done to protect legal bettors, “or we’ll be in a huge amount of trouble in the future.”

Legal liabilities and limitations

Sensenbrenner’s first question was a challenge to Sara Slane, a vice president with the American Gaming Association, on her assertion that legalized sports betting will drive gambling away from illegal bookmakers.

“Let’s look at what illegal sports books offer — they don’t ask for ID, many don’t ask for money upfront, if you strike it rich they don’t talk to the IRS so the IRS doesn’t get a 1099G report, and sometimes they even offer better odds,” Sensenbrenner said. “If I was walking around with a fistful of money that I was looking to bet, where would I go when the illegal sportsbook is offering all these goodies that the legal sportsbook can not?”

Of course, there is no good answer to that one, other than to hope that gamblers will prefer the relative safety and security of betting in a regulated environment.

The other question from Sensenbrenner went to Jon Bruning of the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling. The Congressman pointed to Bruning’s report that claims that more than half of 16-year-olds in the United Kingdom have gambling apps on their smartphones, and that two-thirds say they are “bombarded” by online gambling ads. Sensenbrenner also pointed to Bruning’s report of a 13-year-old who “somehow” got hold of Dad’s credit card and racked up $140,000 in debt in just a few days betting on his favorite soccer team.

Bruning responded that more federal oversight is needed, while taking a vague shot at Betfair, the worldwide online gambling power.

Other House members chime in

Bob Goodlatte, a Republican from Virginia, is simpatico with Bruning on a desire to make online gambling illegal, and shares his skepticism that websites can prevent minors from playing. But from a classic conservative state’s rights perspective, he added that the federal government should not be involved in regulating gambling that takes place at sites such as casinos.

Another gambling foe among the five witnesses, Les Bernal of Stop Predatory Gambling, was given a chance by Goodlatte to say his peace — which basically is that states should not be in the business of trying to entice residents into gambling.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat from New York, came across as wary of further gambling legalization — although he also sought a variety of feedback. He said that “many years ago” he wrote a paper for a New York City mayoral candidate recommending opposition to off-track horse racing wagering legalization because everywhere it was tried, “sociopathology went up.”

Louisiana Democrat Cedric Richmond’s focus was on ways to prevent people from using credit cards to pay for their gambling. Becky Harris, chair of the Nevada Gaming Control Board, said that “credit card companies are reluctant to allow transactions to casinos.”

Val Demings, a Florida Democrat, opened the floor for anyone to talk about the sports organizations wanting to collect “integrity fees” from legal sports betting operators — which did little more than revive the same talking points the group had addressed earlier.

Doomsday scenario suggested

Hakeem Jeffries, a New York Democrat, introduced a curious-sounding letter in which players’ unions of the major pro sports leagues expressed that an increase in legalized gambling could threaten the safety of players, referees, and even their families.

We say “curious” because while the safety of all of those parties is very important, it’s hard to imagine there are gamblers who are too law-abiding to make bets until such activity is legal, yet so dismissive of the law that they would be willing to harm or threaten to harm members of these groups.

Martha Roby, a Republican from Alabama, rounded out the questioning by asking how college athletes can be protected from the scourge of gambling scandals now that sports betting legalization is spreading.

About the only noteworthy information provided in the responses was that Harris, the Nevada regulator, is the mother of a college athlete.

So this committee overall seems still to be in the earliest stages of processing the fact that a new U.S. gambling era is at hand. Frankly, several of these members seemed to know very little about the topics. (Then again, don’t we all want members of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations to invest their limited time in more important issues than this one?)

Finally, keep in mind that control of the House of Representatives may move from Republican to Democratic hands after the elections just over a month from now. So when this committee revisits this issue next year — there were no signs it will happen in 2018 — there may be new leadership, and a new philosophy, about whether Congress should step back in to play a role again in U.S. sports betting legalization.

By: Thomas McCoy of USA Online Casino

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.”

By: Steve Ruddock of Online Poker Report

Considering the witness list and the circus-like proceedings of Congress’ recent gambling hearings, the bar for last week’s sports betting discussion on Capitol Hill was pretty low. And it didn’t take long for two witnesses to throw the primary issue out the window and devolve the hearing into a rant against online gambling.

  •  Jon Bruning, counselor, Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling (CSIG)
  • Les Bernal, national director, Stop Predatory Gambling

The plot turn was foreshadowed by Bruning’s written testimony, as well as Rep. Bob Goodlatte’s(R-VA) opening remarks that put online gambling front and center just minutes in.

You can watch the entire hearing below, or peruse the live blog of the proceedings from Legal Sports Report.

This is not the hearing you’re looking for

Goodlatte’s remarks followed the opening statement of Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), the chairman of the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations. Sensenbrenner stuck to sports betting.

Goodlatte didn’t.

As one of the driving forces behind the UIGEA in 2006, Goodlatte attacked the online component of sports betting.

He called online gambling more dangerous than land-based gambling, claiming that the federal government hasn’t done enough to enforce UIGEA. His claim ignored the role of the Department of Justice in the 2011 online poker indictments that became known as Black Friday.

“That could be a key issue for Congress to consider — what role the federal government should have in this,” Goodlatte said. “The answer to that question underlies this entire issue.”

Sidetracked by online gambling

Online gambling and the UIGEA were themes repeated many times throughout the hearing. Members of the subcommittee and some witnesses worked to drive a crowbar between land-based and online gambling.

As the hearing wore on, Goodlatte, Bernal, and Bruning seemed to be rattling off the same talking points. Each called online gambling a ‘different animal’ or a ‘different beast.’

The three were also advocating for, or at least open to the idea of “restoring” the Wire Act.

That’s an argument Online Poker Report has tackled several times. The word “restore” is a misnomer. The proposed legislation amounts to nothing more than a new federal prohibition on online gambling — not unlike the failed PASPA legislation in 1992.

Is federal action on the horizon?

Chairman Sensenbrenner brought the 90-minute hearing to a close with a non-binding call to action:

“I think the one thing that all of you agree on, is that for Congress to do nothing is the worst possible alternative.

“So this means 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. Because I’m afraid if we don’t, there are going to be some people that get hurt — and hurt very badly.”

Despite the fire and brimstone Sensenbrenner called down on Room 2141, the chances of meaningful federal action on sports betting and/or online gambling are slim to none. Not only is Congress doing nothing the best possible outcome, it’s also the most likely.

For evidence, look no further than the lack of progress on the Restoration of America’s Wire Act(RAWA) legislation of the last several years. Even with a deep-pocketed, high-profile benefactor, few lawmakers have been willing to attach their names to RAWA bills in either chamber of Congress.

When it comes to sports betting, even the anti-gambling Goodlatte said he was wrestling with the conflicting ideals of federal action and states’ rights. The latter ideology is one reason Congress has largely ignored the RAWA bills pushed by mega-donor Sheldon Adelson and his CSIG organization.

But the lobbyists are happy.

Brookfield, WI—Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-05) issued the following statement after the Trump administration announced it has reached a trilateral trade deal with Canada and Mexico:

“Wisconsin stands to benefit from this new trade deal, which expands Americans’ access to auto manufacturing and dairy markets. This is an important step toward strengthening our trade relationships and growing our economy, and I applaud the administration for its persistence and hard work in reaching this agreement.”

By: the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

WASHINGTON — Several members of the House Judiciary Committee suggested Thursday that they would support new federal regulation of sports gambling, though the specifics remained murky.

Four months after the Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling paving the way for legal sports betting nationwide, Congress held its first hearing on the matter. Over the course of 90 minutes, members of the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations pressed a group of witnesses about various potential legal safeguards, in the wake of the Court’s decision to overturn a decades-old federal law that limited most sports gambling to Nevada.

The day’s biggest question: Who should safeguard the games, while also looking out for athletes and bettors.

“I think the one thing that all would agree on is that for Congress to do nothing is the worst possible alternative,” said Rep. James Sensenbrenner Jr., R-Wis., the subcommittee’s chairman.

Nevada, Delaware, New Jersey, Mississippi and West Virginia now offer some form of legalized sports gambling. A handful of other states have legalized but not yet implemented betting on pro and amateur sports, and more states are expected to take up bills this fall.

Sports entities have favored federal oversight, while gaming groups have generally preferred state regulation. The NFL was the only professional league represented at Thursday’s hearing, and Jocelyn Moore, a communication executive with the league, voiced support for federal oversight.

“We’re asking for core federal standards,” she said. “We’re not asking for sweeping federal legislation.”

Among the league’s requests: uniform standards for state regulatory bodies, a 21-year-old age minimum for bettors, a requirement that official league data be used by sports books, established protocol for books to communicate across state lines about abnormal betting patterns, and a limit on in-game prop bets — like whether a field goal will be made or missed — that could be easily manipulated.

By: Phil Kabler of Charleston Gazette-Mail

Launches of sports betting at Wheeling Island and Mardi Gras casinos, tentatively expected by the end of this month, have been delayed, Lottery spokesman Randy Burnside said Thursday.

In a statement Thursday, he said the parent company of both casinos, Delaware North, had advised the Lottery it would be delaying the launch of sportsbooks at its Wheeling and Nitro locations, but did not specify reasons for the delay.

“Delaware North has pushed back their timeline for opening the sportsbooks at both Wheeling and Mardi Gras,” Burnside said. “The Lottery is waiting to hear back from them to schedule testing at some point in October.”

Kim Florence, president of Wheeling Island, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Gaming industry officials have expressed concern that the Justice administration might attempt to amend legislative rules governing sports betting — which have to be filed with the secretary of state before Oct. 7 — to mandate that the state’s casinos share sports betting profits with professional sports leagues.

That’s despite legislators soundly rejecting previous attempts by the Justice administration to mandate paying “integrity fees” to the leagues or require that the casinos enter into contracts with those leagues.

Industry concerns were heightened by the abrupt resignation of Lottery Director Alan Larrick and the ongoing suspension of Lottery general counsel Danielle Boyd, who had both championed sports betting rules that do not include compensation to the sports leagues.

Earlier this month, West Virginia Gaming and Racing Association President John Cavacini said the sports leagues are trying to use the rule-making process to force policies that the Legislature rejected in the regular session.

“It would be very hard for the tracks to go back and start all over with a new set of rules and regulations,” he said, adding, “We object to them bringing the same old stuff they lost on in January, February and March, and trying to get them through the backdoor through amending rules and regulations.”

Meanwhile Thursday in Congress, a House subcommittee hosted the first public hearing on possible federal legislation to regulate sports betting at the state and tribal level.

Those testifying included Jocelyn Moore, executive vice president of the National Football League, who said that without federal oversight, “We are witnessing a regulatory race to the bottom.”

She said the NFL is asking Congress to consider federal regulations of sports betting, including requiring operators to contract with the league for official game data, to restrict or ban “risky” in-game wagers on individual performances that she said are more susceptible to fixing, and to prevent the use of intellectual property, including league and team logos, without consent.

“Our product is widely available for unofficial data providers to abuse,” she said.

In West Virginia, Gov. Jim Justice has pushed for concessions in the state’s new sports betting law to compensate professional sports leagues, first proposing paying a portion of state profits to the leagues through an “integrity fee” and more recently proposing that the state’s casinos be required to contract with the leagues for game data.

During Thursday’s hearing, Sara Slane, senior vice president of the American Gaming Association, and Becky Harris, chairwoman of the Nevada Gaming Control Board, argued that paying fees to sports leagues would make legal sports betting uncompetitive with existing illegal and offshore markets, and said legal sports betting provides transparency to help assure the integrity of the games.

Both noted that sports betting has a low profit margin, and that paying taxes or fees to professional sports leagues could make legal sports betting uncompetitive with illegal, black market betting using bookies or offshore Internet sites.

Part of developing successful legal sportsbooks, they said, requires drawing bettors away from the illegal operators, who don’t require valid identification, who often take bets on credit, who don’t report big wins to the Internal Revenue Service, and who frequently can offer better odds.

“They don’t care about regulations. They don’t care about consumers, and they don’t pay taxes,” Slane said.

She said polls show 70 percent of sports bettors would prefer to move from illegal to legal sportsbook operations.

Slane said legal sports betting promotes the integrity of sports events, since the legal operators have the ability to detect and report to authorities any unusual betting patterns.

“Right now, we have no idea if any illegal activity is occurring because there is no transparency in the black market,” she said.

Harris noted that the Nevada Gaming Control Board has detected and reported cases of betting improprieties in the past.

“Integrity in gaming is absolutely critical,” she said. “Sports betting scandals are more likely to occur in illegal markets where there is no regulatory responsibility, where monitoring betting patterns is of no concern, and where line movements may not matter.”

The subcommittee also heard from anti-gambling advocates, including Les Bernal, with Stop Predatory Gambling, who said state-sanctioned gambling is a “con game” that deprives Americans of $118 billion of income each year.

“Adding sports betting to the mix is going to make these gambling losses more severe,” he said.

The hearing was the first since a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in May overturning a federal law banning sports betting in most of the country.

However, closing comments by the subcommittee chairman, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, D-Wisconsin, suggested it would not be the last.

“The one thing I think we all agree on is for Congress to do nothing is the worst possible alternative,” he said.

By: Steven Stradbrooke of Calvin Ayre

Thursday’s sports betting hearing in the US congress was not unlike The Lord of the Rings, in that the forces of darkness significantly outnumbered the wagering heroes.

Thursday saw the House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations tackle the issue of what role the federal government should – or shouldn’t – have in overseeing sports betting activity in the wake of the Supreme Court striking down the federal betting ban.

Subcommittee chair Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) opened the proceedings by noting the lack of any real media presence, given the hearing was taking place at the same time as the Senate’s far more consequential hearing into whether a Supreme Court nominee was a rat-bastard frat-boy rapist.

Sensenbrenner immediately copped to his impartiality on the subject of betting, saying that the “temptation is there to throw games” and unless something – exactly what went unspecified – is done, Sensenbrenner foresaw “a huge amount of trouble in the future” as legal betting spread across the land.

Next up was Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VI), one of the architects of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), who rejected the view that gambling was a “victimless activity” and claimed that online gambling was “more destructive” to families than if a brick-and-mortar casino opened on the other side of their white picket fence.

Goodlatte claimed to be a supporter of state’s rights, but also claimed that state gambling regulations were impossible to enforce in this modern age of newfangled gizmos. Speaking of, Goodlatte rubbished the concept of geo-fencing, saying that the best its proponents could say was that the technology “allegedly” works.

Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) concluded the committee members’ opening remarks by saying that the feds have a responsibility to ensure that sports are “free of fraud” and that the games are “on the up and up.”

The first of the five invited guests to speak was Jocelyn Moore, the National Football League’s VP of communications and public affairs, who warned of a state-level “regulatory race to the bottom” that practically begged for federal intervention, conveniently ignoring the fact that the NFL felt no particular urge to oversee the legal wagering going on in Nevada over these many decades.

Moore recited the NFL’s longstanding demands, including the mandatory use of league-supplied data for betting purposes, the ability to veto bookmakers offering “risky” in-play betting markets and protection of the league’s intellectual property.

Next up was the reliably hyperbolic Les Bernal, director of Stop Predatory Gambling, who has made it his life’s mission to get state governments out of the gambling business. We’ll spare you the bulk of Bernal’s testimony, but can’t resist repeating his lines that “states are laboratories of fraud, exploitation and budgetary shell-games” and that “no illegal gambling operator is putting liens on people’s houses.” (On that last point, touché.)

Legal betting’s first backer was Sara Slane, the American Gaming Association’s senior VP of public affairs, who argued that state and tribal gaming regulators were already well equipped to adapt to include sports betting in their areas of oversight.

Slane noted that the feds have no input into oversight of slots, table games and other gambling products, and thus there was “no need to overcomplicate or interfere with system that is already working.”

Slane added that there was also no need for the feds to legally mandate official sports data deals between leagues and operators. If there are any data deals, they should be done between the leagues and individual operators.

Jon Bruning, a former Attorney General (Nebraska) and now a counselor at the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling(CSIG), steered the ship back on its crazy course by claiming that the feds have “effectively abandoned” enforcement of UIGEA and demanding that the Wire Act be “restored” to its pre-2011 DOJ opinion era of zero tolerance for onine gambling.

Given that CSIG is funded by Las Vegas Sands’ boss Sheldon Adelson, it was appropriate that Bruning utilized the same ‘I have a smartphone’ prop comedy so often used by Sands’ Andy Abboud at previous hearings to illustrate, er, something about online gambling being “uniquely susceptible” to criminality, public corruption and terrorism.

The witness testimony concluded with Becky Harris, chair of the Nevada Gaming Control Board, who noted that Nevada has been dealing with legal wagering for decades without any problems. Harris also pointed out that onerous federal regulations would only serve to drive punters to the more attractive offerings of internationally licensed online operators.

When it came time for interaction twixt legislators and witnesses, Sensenbrenner turned Harris’ regulation comments on Slane, wondering why any bettor wouldn’t opt to wager with international sites that don’t alert the IRS regarding a punter’s tax obligations.

Slane claimed that 70% of bettors currently wagering with international operators wanted to move to US-licensed books, but they wouldn’t shift if the feds “hamstrung” US books with heavy taxes and overly restrictive regulations.

Addressing Bernal, Nadler claimed that “sociopathology” had increased wherever off-track betting was permitted, and Bernal claimed that all that was necessary was to “take the government out of” the equation, end all gambling marketing and the urge to gamble will somehow “dissipate.”

Slane rebutted this exchange, saying eliminating regulatory oversight “does not make a whole lot of sense to me” and that legal operators can work with customers to reduce problem gambling. Bruning played his one-note instrument again, saying only land-based operators can properly vet their customers, while online was “a whole different thing.”

[At this point, we pause to note the blonde woman sitting directly behind Bruning, who perpetually nodded and smiled every time Bruning spoke, much like a devout parishioner during a particularly stirring evangelical preacher’s sermon. One half expected her to jump to her feet and bellow ‘can I get an amen’ but sadly it didn’t happen.]

Rep. Goodlatte didn’t so much ask questions as continue his opening statement, saying he wanted to “modernize” the Wire Act and properly enforce UIGEA. Bruning used this moment to point out that New Jersey regulators had the nerve to issue a license to PokerStars, who he claimed were “still on the lam” from their 2011 federal indictments, despite the original owners having sold out in 2014.

Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA) wanted to know whether all gambling operators – online or land-based – could be restricted to accepting only debit cards, not credit cards, in order to protect citizens from going into debt. Bernal claimed “getting you to chase your losses” was actually all gambling operators’ “business model,” which we took as a ‘no’ response.

[At this point, the livestream began flashing intermittently, effectively rendering the testimony indecipherable, which we assumed was God answering the blonde woman’s prayers by blocking anyone hearing any favorable gambling references.]

When the signal resumed, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) expressed concern that legal wagering would pose a threat to the safety of athletes, referees and their families from bettors irate over a dropped pass or ill-timed penalty.

The NFL’s Moore somehow steered her response into another call for preserving game integrity, without acknowledging the fact that BETTING IS ALREADY TAKING PLACE and there have yet to be hordes of angry Manson Families besieging players’ homes.

Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL) wondered whether college athletes could be more susceptible to taking money in a legal betting world. Slane noted that the NCAA doesn’t pay its athletes, and appeared to suggest that colleges monitor athletes’ financial transactions to look for any activity that might indicate something untoward.

Sensenbrenner brought the festivities to a close by noting that the hearing was primarily informational, but claimed that everyone was in agreement that Congressional inaction was the “worst possible” reaction following the Supreme Court ruling, and that Congress should probably enact both “short-term and more permanent” solutions.

It remains to be seen whether there’s sufficient appetite outside the subcommittee’s narrow confines for Congress to proceed with actively regulating sports betting. Certainly, few impartial observers expect any concrete action in the dwindling days of the current legislative session, which means I wasted my time watching this fiasco, and you wasted your time reading this recap. Sorry.