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The replacement for the late Sen. John McCain has a chance of shaping the future of sports betting in the United States.
Former Sen. Jon Kyl has been tapped to take over McCain’s vacant seat in the US Senate, according to media reports. So what does that have to with sports betting?
Congress has been very interested in the topic of sports betting and its possible regulation at the federal level. Powerful senators from both sides of the aisle — Orrin Hatch and Chuck Schumer — have made their desire to advance legislation loudly know in recent weeks.
Of course, we’ve yet to see any legislation nearly four months after the federal sports betting ban was overturned by Congress. And none of the rumored Congressional hearings have happened, either.
But now we’re adding Kyl to the mix, whose history on gambling is well-known and who has an interesting tie to the leagues that want to see oversight of sports betting come from the federal government.
Kyl is best known in the gaming industry for helping to move the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act through Congress in 2006.
The UIGEA made it illegal to process payments dealing with online gambling if not explicitly legalized by a state. The UIGEA ended up stopping a lot of the biggest online poker and gambling sites out of the US market. (The UIGEA also famous has a carve-out for fantasy sports that allowed companies like DraftKings and FanDuel to pop up in its wake)
It also helped set the state for legal online gambling that we now have via New Jersey online casinos, not to mention Nevada and Delaware online poker. Pennsylvania online casinos will also be live soon.
And now, mobile and online sports betting is coming to a number of states outside of Nevada. NJ sports betting is live now; online PA sports betting and online West Virginia sports betting are also on the way.
Kyl left the Senate in 2013, and before he left had tried to ban online gambling entirely, but unsuccessfully.
Kyl would probably like to try to ban sports betting again rather than to regulate it federally, but that ship appears to have sailed in Congress. So, if you can beat them, join them?
The NFL, Major League Baseball and the NBA — along with the NCAA — are trying to push for federal regulation. What does that have to do with Kyl?
Kyl works as an advisor for the law firm Covington & Burling. It has represented many of the top pro US sports leagues in one fashion or another. It’s even dealt with sports data and statistics — one of the central issues the leagues are concerned with when it comes to sports betting — on behalf of the NFL.
It’s not clear if the leagues have Kyl’s ear like they do with Schumer and Hatch — both are espousing league talking points — or if he’s even involved with advising them.
We also don’t know how long Kyl will serve — he may just be in office until the lame-duck session is over at the start of 2019 after November’s mid-term elections for Congress.
Regardless, Kyl is coming to the Senate at a potentially crucial time for the future of US sports betting. And given his past interest in gaming issues and his stature in Congress even years after his departure, he may have an impact.