A First Step Toward Legal PA Sports Betting? House Committee Unanimously Approves Bill

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PA sports betting first step

A House committee unanimously advanced a bill to legalize Pennsylvania sports betting, should federal law change.

What’s next for the sports betting bill? That’s not clear.

The PA sports betting effort

First things first: the legislation in Pennsylvania — H 519 — is not like the New Jersey sports betting effort that is a direct affront to federal law. The federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act — PASPA — bans single-game wagering everywhere except for Nevada.

The PA law — if enacted — only kicks in if the federal climate changes:

The Secretary of the Commonwealth shall, when Federal law is enacted or repealed or a Federal court decision is filed that affirms the authority of a state to regulate sports wagering, publish a notice in the Pennsylvania Bulletin certifying the enactment or repeal or the filing of the decision.

In any event, a court challenge like NJ has staged in recent years would be pointless, as PA and NJ both reside in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, where New Jersey has lost at every step to date. NJ is appealing its case to the US Supreme Court.

Pennsylvania passing sports betting legislation now would allow it to act quickly, should New Jersey win its case. The bill sets up a regulatory scheme if legal sports betting come a reality at the state level.

Sports betting bill moves, but what next in PA?

The PA sports betting bill — authored by Rep. Robert Matzie — won approval from the House Gaming Oversight Committee on Tuesday. Despite no one voting against the measure, it’s not clear if PA is ready to move forward on sports betting.

The vote comes during a larger discussion about other new gambling measures in the state, which includes the possible regulation of daily fantasy sports and PA online casinos.

The potential legalization of sports betting might just further muddy the waters for what has already been a contentious debate over the future of gaming in PA. There is a chance that the bill continues on its own track, goes nowhere, or gets lumped into the larger gaming expansion.

Other states and sports betting

Despite several states introducing sports betting measures this year, none of those have gained traction.

The most promising efforts — in Michigan and West Virginia — likely would have created conflict with federal law like New Jersey. Those efforts have not seen any forward momentum, although sports betting was discussed in a hearing in Michigan.

Pennsylvania represents the first positive step toward a new state trying to enact a sports betting law this year.