Non-Profit Fan Group Pitches A Different Kind of Sports Betting Bill

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Sports betting bill of rights

A consumer non-profit once involved in NFL TV blackouts and stadium public financing is shifting focus to legal sports betting.

Sports Fans Coalition announced Monday plans to advocate for a Sports Bettors’ Bill of Rights in sports betting bills nationwide. The proposal includes five tenets that are “designed to encourage sports fans to leave the underground illegal sports betting market and conduct safe transactions,” according to executive director Brian Hess.

“Ever since the Supreme Court decision to overturn the federal ban on sports betting, we’ve seen states scrambling to legalize the activity. However, many are doing so without regard for consumer well-being,” Hess said.

What’s in the proposal

SFC’s sports betting bill of rights pushes for five protections for consumers:

Some of these issues track closely with protections sought by the National Council on Problem Gambling. None are meant to suggest opposition to legal sports betting — quite the contrary, in fact.

“It should be legalized,” Hess said. “The states have a lot to gain from it. But they need to do it while providing some consumer protection to provide safety and legitimacy for the fan.”

How SFC will advance its agenda

Referring to the strategy as “digital grassroots activism,” Hess said SFC will activate its 50,000-member database to contact legislators.

Hess identified a handful of states where SFC will focus efforts, saying they are “especially vulnerable to influence from bad actors.” Those include Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Virginia, Washington, and Oregon.

Not coincidentally, most of those states already began some level of effort to legalize sports betting this year or next. Hess said SFC also chose states based on the presence of pro sports league and the strength of its member base.

Hess also said SFC does not have any endorsements from other advocacy groups but will explore appropriate partnerships.

“The hope is non-profits, advocacy groups, and for-profit businesses can see this is as good for everybody,” Hess said.

What is SFC and why is it here?

The group lists a diverse set of causes in defining itself, including:

SFC’s chairman is David Goodfriend, a former White House staffer under President Bill Clinton who also worked in government affairs for DISH Network. Goodfriend is a Washington, D.C.-based lobbyist and attorney whose clients have included DISH Network, eBay, PayPal, Lennar, beIN SPORTS, NuvoTV, Hughes Network Systems, labor unions, business associations, and non-profits.

Goodfriend founded the group in 2009. The Hill wrote about SFC at the time, when it received corporate backing from Verizon to get started:

(Goodfriend) said he got the idea for the group when a congressional staffer asked him if he knew of anyone who could testify on behalf of sports fans at a hearing. The corporate funding was needed to get the coalition off the ground, but he hopes it will be self-sustaining when sports fans join and decide the direction of the group.

“In general, we’re going to be a grassroots advocacy organization and advocate wherever and however we can,” including Congress, the White House, FCC and the Justice Department, he said.

Hess said the SFC coalition working on the sports betting bill of rights includes veterans of the telecommunications and media industries.