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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: 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.

Washington, D.C.—Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner delivered the following remarks today at a hearing titled “Post-PASPA: An Examination of Sports Betting in America”:

Good morning, and I’d like to welcome you all to today’s hearing.

First of all, let me say that this topic that we’re going to be discussing today is probably just as important in terms of setting the future of American society as what’s going on before our Judiciary Committee counterparts on the other side of the Capitol. But obviously we don’t have the attention of the media since we have a mostly empty press table over there. However, this is going to be an issue that is going to be very important in terms of making a determination of how professional and amateur sports are played, and any regulation, if any, that Congress should decide to put on the huge amounts of money that are bet both in legal and, in some cases, illegal forums.

The Subcommittee will examine the state of sports gambling in America. This subject is extremely important and complex. Development in the past year mean it may soon affect the lives of millions of Americans.

Sports in America are tightly woven into our lives. They are our pastime, our passion. They bring us together; they divide us—hopefully in good sportsmanship; they serve as an escape; and yet they consume us.

I don’t watch much television, but when the Packers and the Brewers are on, the tv is on in my house. And I’m able to get away from what goes on in this business. And I’m particularly happy to see the Brewers on their way to the World Series. Come Milwaukee if you want to see some really great baseball played in the month of October.

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court, in the case of Murphy v. NCAA, struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, or PASPA.  PASPA was enacted in 1992, with the express purpose of protecting the integrity of professional and amateur American athletics. 

As written, PASPA effectively prohibited state-sanctioned sports betting nationwide, although contained a “grandfather clause” exempting states where wagering was already legal, including Nevada. Its nullification by the Supreme Court was preceded by many years of litigation, mostly involving the State of New Jersey and its efforts to establish a legal sports wagering regime.

In issuing the Murphy decision, Justice Alito wrote that the law unconstitutionally “commandeered” the main regulatory power of the states to enact their own gambling laws. Of course, the Tenth Amendment provides that all powers not expressly granted to the federal government are reserved to the states, or the people. 

Specifically, Justice Alito stated that “The legalization of sports gambling requires an important policy choice,” and this is one we will be making here sometime in the near future, “but the choice is not ours to make. Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, each state is free to act on its own. Our job is to interpret the law Congress has enacted and decide whether it is consistent with the Constitution. PASPA is not. PASPA ‘regulate[s] state governments’ regulation of their citizens.  The Constitution gives Congress no such power.”

The Supreme Court’s ruling means that, unlike during the 25-year existence of PASPA, states are now free to enact their own statutory and regulatory sports gambling schemes.

And that is why we are here.  This panel before us should show how this issue permeates every level of our government, and crosses from the gambling industry to professional athletics, to organizations dedicated to protecting citizens, and to state regulatory bodies.

Today, I expect to hear from our distinguished panel about the options available in the post-Murphy environment. One option, of course, would be for Congress to re-enact a federal ban on sports gambling.  Some have suggested that doing so would be as simple as prohibiting corporations – not states – from engaging in sports gambling activities. And it would curb any use of legalized, commercialized sports wagering to prey on vulnerable citizens.

Another possibility would be for Congress to defer to the states, and allow them to legalize and regulate the sports gaming business. This option is attractive to many who want the free market to work its will, since many current state laws and regulations already address issues as age restrictions, record keeping requirements and licensing and suitability determinations.

And a third option would be for Congress to adopt uniform, minimum federal standards, which would guide the imposition of sports wagering across the nation, in states that desire to legalize the practice.

Now let me express a personal view. With the huge amount of money that is involved in sports gambling, both above board and below board, the temptation is there to throw games—whether it’s done by officials, whether it is done by players, or whether it’s done by the actual teams. The first commissioner was appointed to oversee baseball following the Black Sox scandal. Recently, there was an NBA referee that ended up being accused, and I believe being convicted, of helping throw a game. And what I can say also being a Green Bay Packer fan is: after any controversial call—like the extremely bad calls against Clay Matthews for roughing the passer, in my opinion—the question will arise is whether the call was made by a referee who was calling them as he saw them or by a referee who was trying to influence the outcome of the game.

Unless something is done, in my opinion, to protect honest and legitimate betters from those who would like to tilt the games one way or the other illegally, unethically, and against the sports rules, we are going to be in for a huge amount of trouble in the future.

As I said at the outset, this is a complex issue, involving a variety of other issues – and statutes, outside of PASPA. There may need to be updates to other federal statutes to reflect this new reality. As a husband, father, grandfather, and sports fan, I am committed to two things: protecting our children and the games we love. Any solution crafted by Congress must address those two principles.

I thank our distinguished panel of witnesses, and look forward to your testimony.

By: Ben Nuckols of the Herald-Whig

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 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.

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."

Jon Bruning, a Republican former Nebraska attorney general, told the committee that youngsters in the United Kingdom, where legal sports betting is widespread, were being exploited by licensed online operators, citing studies that showed minors are placing bets and being bombarded by advertisements.

In Nevada, however, online sports gambling has not yet proved popular, said Becky Harris, the chair of the Nevada Gaming Control Board. She said protections are in place, including a requirement that bettors go to a casino in person and undergo a background check before placing bets online.

Jocelyn Moore, an NFL spokeswoman and lobbyist, used the word "integrity" 24 times in her seven-page written testimony. She urged Congress to limit legal gambling to those 21 and older, require operators to use official data from leagues and bar risky bets on in-game action that, she said, are particularly susceptible to match-fixing. The league also wants more aggressive enforcement against illegal bookies.

Meanwhile, 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.

By: Jon Sofen of Cards Chat

A House Judiciary subcommittee heard testimony on Thursday from advocates and opponents of the federal government regulating sports betting. The hearing, led by Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), addressed issues related to the Supreme Court’s May ruling to strike down a 1992 federal law that banned sports wagering in most states.

Adelson Attorney Expresses Concerns

Anti-online poker casino mogul Sheldon Adelson sent his lawyer Jon Bruning to the hearing. But his testimony didn’t specifically address poker.

Bruning did, however, question the safety of nationwide sports gambling. He said that a state-regulated industry “creates 50 chances for student-athletes to make mistakes.”

His concerns are shared by some politicians. Bruning claims “the internet doesn’t have borders.” And, thus, fears it will be impossible for individual states to monitor online gambling action.

The former Nebraska attorney general didn’t propose a complete ban on internet gambling. He instead focused on addressing the risks associated with widespread online gambling. One of those risks, he suggests, is the potential for illegal online gambling sites “taking advantage of the spread of legalized sports betting across the nation.”

NGCB Chair’s Stance

Becky Harris, chairwoman of the Nevada Gaming Control Board, disagrees with Adelson’s hired speaker.

“Integrity in gaming is absolutely critical,” Harris has 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.”

Nevada was previously the only state offering legal sports wagers. Harris uses her state as an example for why other states should legalize sports betting. She has suggested refusing to do so encourages illegal activity.

Sara Slane, senior vp of public affairs for the American Gaming Association (AGA), shares Harris’ sentiments.

“AGA does not believe an additional layer of federal regulatory oversight is needed at this time,” she told the committee. “(The federal government) should leave sports betting oversight to the states and the tribes that are closest to the market.”

Slane favors individual states legalizing sports betting. She argues that doing so would minimize black market wagering.

Sports bettors wager an estimated $100 billion annually. It’s impossible to track the amount wagered through the black market, as illegal bookmakers and offshore sites don’t report this income to the IRS.

Sleight of Hand

Much like the anti-online poker RAWA hearings that never materialized, don’t expect major changes to the sports gambling landscape following Thursday’s testimony. The purpose of the hearing was to determine if federal intervention is warranted, not to pass legislation.

After just 90 minutes, the hearing adjourned. Chairman Sensenbrenner ended the hearing without addressing the next step: a future hearing. The committee didn’t set a date.

“I think the one thing you all agree on is that for Congress to do nothing is the worst possible alternative,” the chairman said. “This means we have some work to do. I’m looking forward to working with you to come up with something short-term and something more permanent.”

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.”

By: Matt Rybaltowski of Forbes

Addressing the 10,000 pound Elephant In The Room, Rep. James Sensenbrenner opened his remarks at a  Congressional hearing on sports betting by expressing concern that intense media coverage of Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court confirmation could diminish the gravity of Thursday's hearing.

Sensenbrenner, the chairman of the U.S. House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations, tackled the issue head on by asserting that the societal impact of sports gambling is just as critical to the nation as the matters discussed before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The hearing entitled,  Post-PASPA: An Examination of Sports Betting in America, marked the first time a Congressional subcommittee convened for a discussion on the topic since the Supreme Court struck down a federal ban on sports gambling in May. 

"This is going to be an issue that is going to be very important in terms of making a determination of how professional and amateur sports are played, and any regulation, if any, that Congress should decide to put on the huge amounts of money that are bet both in legal and, in some cases, illegal forums," Sensenbrenner said in his opening remarks.

A debate on whether regulation of sports gambling should be largely enforced by the federal government or left to individual states dominated the 90-minute hearing inside the Rayburn House Office Building. While four states -- Delaware, New Jersey, Mississippi and West Virginia -- have legalized sports betting over the last three months, more than a dozen others could follow suit over the next two years. The committee heard from a panel of experts on the ramifications of the Court's decision, headlined by NFL Executive Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs Jocelyn Moore. 

Echoing a position taken by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell earlier this summer, Moore noted that sports gambling remains an interstate question requiring a response from the federal government. As such, Moore urged Congress to establish core standards that will ensure a legal, regulated sports betting framework with substantial safeguards for consumers. Without proper federal oversight, Moore warned against a potential regulatory "race to the bottom," by state legislatures, a concern also expressed by Sen. Orrin Hatch, a co-author of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992. 

At the same time, a leading trade group for the gaming industry argued that the responsibility of regulating sports gambling should be handled mostly by states and tribal nations, not the federal government. Just as Congress has refrained from regulating lotteries and other games such as slot machines, it should take a similar Laissez-Faire approach to sports betting, according to Sara Slane, senior vice president of public affairs at the American Gaming Association. In addition, the AGA believes policies should be enacted to curb the influence of the illegal, black market estimated at billions of dollars per year.

Slane was pressed by Sensenbrenner on why a gambler should place a bet with a legal sports book when a surfeit of options are offered on the illegal market. The illegal books, Sensenbrenner noted, are unshackled from burdensome tax requirements and in some cases can offer more favorable odds than their legal counterparts. In response, Slane cited a recent AGA commissioned study from Nielsen Sports which found that 71 percent of respondents that placed bets with a bookkeeper would move their betting activity to a regulated market if they had access to a legal platform. Nielsen surveyed more than 1,000 adult bettors nationwide.

The committee also heard from John Bruning, managing partner of Bruning Law Group and former attorney general of Nebraska. Bruning urged Congress to restore the Federal Wire Act to dissuade unlicensed and illegal online gambling sites from capitalizing on the expansion of legalized gambling in the U.S. Bruning also suggested that changes should be made with the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 to better enforce gambling activity among Americans on offshore internet websites.

Easy access to sports gambling via the internet poses a considerable risk to underage bettors, Bruning emphasized. Bruning referenced a situation in the U.K. where a 13-year old boy gained access to his father's credit card after watching advertisements from a gaming operator during a soccer match. The teenager subsequently lost more than $140,000 in a span of a few days, Bruning said.

In a written statement provided to the committee, Moore recommended that Congress require the use of official league data in settling the betting outcomes of contests. The use of such data protects consumers from being manipulated by unscrupulous actors through fictitious contests known as ghost games, Moore wrote. There is anecdotal evidence of the practice in lower-level soccer matches in Europe that receive scant attention from regulators. Bettors wagered thousands on a 2015 match between FC Slutsk and Shakhter Soligorsk, two teams in the Belarus Premier League, only to discover later that the contest never took place

The NFL is also concerned that unsophisticated bettors could be duped by fake in-game proposition bets during the course of a game. Nevada Gaming Control Board Chair Becky Harris countered that there are restrictions on certain exotic wagers that a casino can offer within the state. A sports book, for instance, cannot offer bets in Nevada on whether a kicker will place an errant field goal to the left or right of the goalpost on an attempt.

"I would argue that in a strictly regulated market there is not a specific bet type that is more susceptible to some kind of impropriety," Harris said.

Other leagues appear to be just as alarmed. The issue gained traction in January when NBA Senior Vice President and Assistant General Counsel Dan Spillane argued that leagues should have the right to prohibit risky bets such as which player will commit a game's first foul. Although obscure wagers may be available at minor operations outside the U.S., Wynn Las Vegas Executive Director Of Race And Sports Operations Johnny Avello said at the time that he hasn't offered that type of bet in nearly four decades as an oddsmaker.  

Maintaining integrity in sports is just one of many issues Congress may confront over the next several months in determining the role of government in regulating sports betting. For the most part, the panelists at Thursday's hearing believe that some intervention from the federal government is needed to address the issues, Sensenbrenner indicated. 

"This means we have some work to do," said Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican. "I'm looking forward to try to come up with something short-term and more permanent to deal with this issue. I'm afraid that if we don't there will be some people who will be hurt and will be hurt pretty badly."  

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.”

WITNESS TESTIMONY
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.

Q&A
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.

BIG FINISH
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.

By: CBS News

House Republicans say they 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 Thursday said they were concerned advertisements and online gambling platforms could target minors, and said they feared the potential for match-fixing.

"For Congress to do nothing is the worst possible alternative," said Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican. Without any action to regulate sports gambling, he said, "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 in June struck 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 is murky at best. No bill has been introduced to 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 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 argues that legalization 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.

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."

Jon Bruning, a Republican former Nebraska attorney general, told the committee that young people in the United Kingdom, where legal sports betting is widespread, were being exploited by licensed online operators, citing studies that showed minors are placing bets and being bombarded by advertisements.

In Nevada online sports gambling has not yet proved popular, said Becky Harris, the chair of the Nevada Gaming Control Board. She said protections are in place, including a requirement that bettors go to a casino in person and undergo a background check before placing bets online.

Jocelyn Moore, an NFL spokeswoman and lobbyist, used the word "integrity" 24 times in her seven-page written testimony. She urged Congress to limit legal gambling to those 21 and older, require operators to use official data from leagues and bar risky bets on in-game action that, she said, are particularly susceptible to match-fixing. The league also wants more aggressive enforcement against illegal bookies.

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.