Should the Federal Gov’t Regulate U.S. Sports Betting?

By Ken Edwards, 11 October 2018

Should the Federal Gov’t Regulate U.S. Sports BettingThe Supreme Court decision earlier this year striking down the federal sports betting ban, didn’t automatically legalize sports betting in all 50 states. Instead, it allowed each one to create its own laws, if it chooses to do so.

In that legislative landscape, the Federal Government may look to regulate or at least have some input into the new sports betting laws that are popping in all shapes-and-sizes and at-different-speeds all across the nation.

The first exploratory talks on the subject of the Federal Government overseeing the sports betting industry has recently concluded in Washington DC.

The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations has recently heard testimony on if the Federal Government should step in to control or perhaps even regulate to some degree Sports Betting in the USA. The talks come in the wake of the landmark May 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of Christie vs, NCAA, which opened the doors on legalized sports betting nationwide by overturning the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA).

Republicans and the NFL in favor of Federal Regulation

On September 27 2018., the House Judiciary Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations Subcommittee held a hearing titled, “Post-PASPA: An Examination of Sports Betting in America.”

Five industry professionals were invited to give testimony at the hearing and topics were examined around the evolution of sports betting in the nation following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Discussions were held as to what (if any) extent the Federal Government should be involved in U.S. Sports Betting.

Unsurprisingly, citing concerns around minors being exposed to gambling and match fixing, House Republicans pitched in strongly in favor of increased Federal regulation.

The NFL too came out swinging for a Federally regulated sports betting industry, with the same theme of ‘protect the integrity’ in matches (code for protection from match-fixing). However, the NFL’s support for Federal regulation is hardly surprising. As a representative of the major sporting leagues in the nation, the NFL is using its heavyweight voice to ensure that Federal Regulations will potentially win them a larger slice of the sports betting pie than if the regulation of the sports betting industry remains solely with the states. Clearly then, now that the matter has been settled in court, it seems the leagues are most concerned with ensuring they’ll get a piece of the gambling revenue pie.

Predictably, Problem Gambling Advocates spoke for further Federal regulation based on a family ‘law and order’ protective agenda. Naturally, on the other side of the fence, Sara Slane from the Gambling Industry body, the American Gambling Association summed up the industry position by commenting;

“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.”

Other industry figures took a slightly different approach by explaining that the 25-year prohibition on sports betting was highly ineffective at preventing illegal sports betting and that any attempts of control at the Federal level have been historically inadequate.

Sports Betting is Now All About State’s Rights

Whilst the concerns of the House Republicans, Problem Gamblers Advocates and Online Gambling Cessation Groups are noble and well-meaning, the Supreme Court decision in over-turning PASPA definitively turned the decision making on sports betting to the states.

The topic is now all about how states will administer their sports betting programs. The state’s concerns are little to do with the philosophical rights and wrongs, but more involved with the running and administration of a sports betting system for their respective state citizens to enjoy, and for the states to find ways to turn the potential increases in their respective consolidated revenue streams into meaningful infrastructure, caring for the elderly and underprivileged, improved education outcomes, quality policing and fire protection programs and roads, parks. These are benefits for citizens and everyday programs that arguably Federal authorities sometimes struggle to implement well.

However, the Supreme Court decision revealed more than that. Six of the Supreme Court Justices, recognized the “anti-commandeering principle,” which defines that the Federal government cannot “command to the States” or its officers and subdivisions that they enforce or administer a Federal regulatory program. The essence of the Supreme Court decision was focused on the principle of respecting “the policy choices of the people of each State”. Rightly or wrongly, let’s respect the highest court in the land and give the states an opportunity to do their job.


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