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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.

THE NFL: IT’S A WHOLE “NEW WORLD”

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.”

CURRENTLY, SPORTS BETTING CONFINED TO SELECT STATES

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.

PA: DON’T MIND US, WE’RE JUST DOING OUR THING

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: 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.

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: 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.

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: Ben Nuckols of The Philadelphia Tribune

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 on Thursday expressed concerns 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. “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 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.

The hearing occurred at the same time the Senate Judiciary Committee was hearing testimony from Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault, and Sensenbrenner acknowledged that most of Washington’s attention was focused elsewhere.

A gambling-industry representative and a Nevada regulator told the committee that 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 that 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 that match-fixing and other nefarious activities are easier to prevent and snuff out in a regulated market.

U.S. 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.

“I do not believe gambling is a victimless activity,” Goodlatte said. “I think that online gambling, in particular, can be more destructive to the families and communities of addictive gamblers than if a bricks-and-mortar casino were built next door.”

The players’ unions for the four major U.S. professional leagues and Major League Soccer asked Congress to include protections for players and their families in any federal regulation. — (AP)

By: Ed Scimia of Online Gambling

?A Congressional hearing on sports betting held by a House Judiciary subcommittee Thursday suggested that there may be an appetite for some sort of federal regulation of the industry, though no clear path towards legislation has materialized.

In what was the first Congressional hearing to deal with the sports betting industry in the past decade, lawmakers heard from five witnesses and seemingly came away with the impression that Congress should act in some form to provide oversight.

NFL Calls for Federal Oversight

Professional sports leagues and the NCAA have publicly stated that they would prefer some federal guidelines to rein in the state-by-state regulations that will ultimately govern how sportsbooks operate throughout the country. That opinion was expressed once again at the hearing by Jocelyn Moore, the NFL?s executive vice president of public affairs.

?Without continued federal guidance and oversight, we are very concerned leagues and states alone will not be able to fully protect the integrity of sporting contests and guard against the harms Congress has long associated with sports betting,? Moore told the committee.

The NFL has consistently expressed concerns about game integrity. The league has also pushed for the use of official league data in legalized sports betting, something that would give sports organizations more of a procedural hand in wagering.

?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.

The idea of federal oversight seemed particularly appealing to Republican legislators.

?I think the one thing you all can agree on is for Congress to do nothing is the worst possible alternative,? Representative Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin) said at the end of the hearing. ?So this means we have some work to do.?

Industry: Current Regulations Sufficient

In reality, not everyone at the hearing agreed with that sentiment. Witness Sara Slane, a senior vice president for the American Gaming Association, said that there was no need for further complications in what was already an effective system.

?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,? Slane told the committee.

That sentiment was echoed by Nevada Gaming Commission chair Becky Harris.

?We have been in this business for decades and haven?t had any problems,? Harris told the committee. ?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.?

But some legislators were not convinced, particularly when it came to bets placed over the internet.

?I do not believe gambling is a victimless activity,? said Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia). ?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.?

As of yet, no bills have been introduced to address the issues that were brought up during the committee meeting, though some lawmakers ? including Senator Chuck Schumer (D-New York) have produced general principles they would like to see in a federal framework.

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: the Associated Press in the Union-Bulletin

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.

By: Ben Strauss of the Washington Post

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 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 high 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. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.), the subcommittee’s chairman. “So this means we have some work to do … because I’m afraid if we don’t, there are some people who will get hurt, and hurt very badly.”

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 sportsbooks, established protocol for sportsbooks 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.

One sticking point was a so-called integrity fee, a small percentage of each bet that some leagues have said they would like to collect to fund oversight efforts.

“As we go forward, we believe the federal government is the only entity that can protect the integrity of the game,” Moore said.

Sara Slane of the American Gaming Association, which favors state-by-state regulation, responded that more safeguards could be in place if more people were allowed to bet legally, and that additional taxes on casinos could force them out of business.

“In order for us in the legal and regulated market to compete with the illegal operators, we have to be able to offer odds; we have to be able to offer bets,” she said. “We want to move those consumers to the legal, regulated market. Everything that is happening in the illegal market, there’s no promotion of integrity.”

That tension persisted through much of the hearing as lawmakers grappled with their concerns about gambling while acknowledging they could not prevent it. Another question: How can a regulated market compete with offshore sportsbooks that annually take millions of dollars in bets?

Les Bernal, executive director of Stop Predatory Gambling, urged the lawmakers to limit gambling as much as possible, including by restricting advertising. “A trillion dollars of wealth is going to be lost in the next eight years by the American people on government-sanctioned gambling,” he said.

“I agree with you,” responded Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.). “But we’ve got to do what’s possible.”

If Thursday did not produce any definitive outcomes, the hearing at least offered a window into some of the issues that lawmakers value.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) expressed concern about protections for players and referees, who could be under newfound scrutiny if more money is wagered on games. Martha Roby (R-Ala.) wondered about unpaid college athletes, asking whether they were vulnerable to undue influence.

Jon Bruning of the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling suggested children could be targeted by online gambling operators and urged lawmakers to limit such outlets. Restrictions to online sports wagering, though, could make it harder for legalized sports betting to grow, and could keep customers in offshore markets.

Sensenbrenner opened the proceedings by noting the more publicized hearing happening across Capitol Hill, where the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony from Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused him of sexual assault.

“We have a mostly empty press table over there,” Sensenbrenner said. “However, this is going to be an issue that is very, very important in terms of making a determination in how professional and amateur sports are played.”