Sens. Hatch and Schumer Introduce Sports Betting Standards

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Capitol Hill, the United States.

Half a year after the defeat of PASPA on May 14, 2018, Senators Orrin Hatch and Chuck Schumer have re-introduce a bill called the Sports Wagering Market Integrity Act 2018, a piece of legislation which will aim to set standards across the industry on a federal level.

What Leads to the Sports Wagering Market Integrity Act

Senators Orrin Hatch from Utah and Chuck Schumer from New York have worked together to introduce a common regulatory framework for sports betting supervision, with their efforts starting nearly as early as the repeal of PASPA 1992.

Schumer's sports integrity bill
The front page of the Schumer and Hatch’s bill.

As one of the co-authors of PASPA, Mr. Hatch’s stint in Senate is running out and he’s determined to see the new regulation pass through. His efforts began early in 2018 when he published an op-ed piece for Sports Illustrated entitled ” Sports Betting Is Inevitable—Let’s Make Sure It’s Done Right”.

For a while, Mr. Schumer has been discussing the prospect of bringing sports betting under federal control. He became more vocal in August when he advanced the idea of common federal standards for the entire industry, though he didn’t submit any bill at the time. Shortly after that, a meeting discussing the post-PASPA future of the betting industry took place at the end of September.

Back in August, Mr. Hatch also began working with Senate colleagues and sports organizations around the country to develop minimum standards that will serve as guidance to states that are considering the legalization of the industry on their own territory.

This bill is the first step toward ensuring that sports betting is done right in the states that choose to legalize it. Just as importantly, it provides protections for states that choose not to go down that path. – Senator Orrin Hatch introducing the bill in Senate

Speaking to his colleagues in the U.S. Senate, Mr. Hatch spoke of the importance of the bill, dismissing fears that the move was aimed to over-regulate the sector, but rather – help establish guiding principles for everyone. Among many things, the Sports Wagering Market Integrity Act 2018 comes with a number of genuine provisions:

  • Permit states to authorize online sports wagering to provide a regulated alternative to the illegal, offshore market
  • Establish to request restrict certain sports wagers when necessary to protect contest integrity
  • Prohibit sports wagering by individuals younger than 21; athletes, coaches, officials, and others associated with sports organizations; and individuals convicted of certain federal crimes related to sports wagering
  • Establish recordkeeping and suspicious transaction reporting requirements
  • Provide a process whereby states may compact with each other to permits interstate sports wagering

None of the measures outlined by Senators Hatch and Schumer are restrictive. Quite the opposite, in fact, as they establish common, though centralized, principles of what each state should lay down as a framework for their own betting activities.

Will the Bill Pass?

The theory behind the proposed legislation is solid. It works out many of the aspects of proper sports betting, such as they have elsewhere in the world. Many of the principles coincide with those introduced by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC), the top watch dog in the United Kingdom.

However, GOP members may see in the bill an attempt to re-regulate the industry in a way that restricts the autonomy of individual states to make decisions about how they handle the legislation.

Mr. Schumer has been aware of the pushback against the legislation, with the American Gaming Association (AGA) raising concerns on multiple occasions that a centralized approach to sports betting would not sit well with the industry:

While federal regulation of sports betting will continue to be a non-starter for the gaming industry, we appreciate the sponsors’ recognition that more must be done to curb illegal sports betting operations – AGA Executive Sara Slane

With Congress changing on January 3, 2019, and Mr. Hatch out, Mr. Schumer will remain the sole proponent of the bill, which is unlikely to be endorsed by a Republican-held Senate.

Any Support for the Sports Wagering Market Integrity Act?

Despite the opposition, there has been support still, particularly from mainstream sporting bodies. Jocelyn Moore, the NFL Executive Vice President, explained that without continued federal guidance and oversight, the NFL was concerned about the integrity of sporting contests as well as the other harms inherent to the sector.

Major League Baseball released a statement also seemed supportive of the move, arguing in a statement that: ” Legalized sports betting is rapidly spreading across the country, creating a clear need for a set of consistent, nationwide integrity standards to protect the sports that millions of Americans love.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Schumer has remained composed. ‘No bet is ever guaranteed to win,’ he said, ‘but it’s a smart bet that I will strongly advocate for.’

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