For the first time since the Supreme Court repealed PASPA in May, Congress will take up the subject of legal sports betting this week.
The hearing entitled “Post-PASPA: An Examination of Sports Betting in America” will take place in the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigation, a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee.
Let’s take a closer look at what to expect when legislators gather to discuss the country’s sports betting industry …
When and where will the hearing be?
The hearing starts at 10 a.m. EDT Thursday. It will take place at the Rayburn Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
You can watch a live stream of the hearing here. Legal Sports Report will have ongoing coverage Thursday throughout the hearing.
Why is Congress looking at sports betting?
Sports betting was settled law in the United States for 26 years before May. That’s when the Supreme Court ruled PASPA unconstitutional via the Murphy v. NCAA case.
Pro sports leagues and the NCAA supported PASPA’s long-standing blanket ban on single-game sports betting outside Nevada. They fought for years against New Jersey in the Murphy case and remain unhappy about the loss of PASPA.
The high court ruled in May that states now could make their own sports betting rules, absent a new federal law. Since then, Delaware, New Jersey, Mississippi, and West Virginia have begun legal sports betting. Rhode Island and Pennsylvania likely will start their operations within 2018 as well.
State-level lobbying efforts have not yielded much of what the leagues now want: a cut of the profits from legal sports betting. They also prefer not to fight for that cut in every state, so they are lobbying Congress for a new federal solution.
The leagues found an ally in Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the Senate Minority Leader. Schumer earlier this month proposed new federal sports betting guidelines that Congress could enact or states could follow. Unsurprisingly, the terms heavily favor the leagues, which are headquartered in New York.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), a co-author of PASPA, also wants a new federal law. Hatch reaffirmed his position as the Senate’s anti-sports betting spokesperson quickly after the Supreme Court decision.
Is there a sports betting bill?
In short, no. That does not guarantee we are free and clear from one appearing, though.
Hatch twice promised to introduce a new federal law after the repeal of PASPA. He has not yet dropped that bill.
Schumer’s proposed framework is not a bill and does not look ready-made to become one. He also left open the possibility that his preferred guidelines are used by states crafting their own laws.
Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) recently withdrew the GAME Act bill he proposed in the House. Pallone introduced the legislation on the day the Supreme Court heard arguments on PASPA. Its utility largely expired once state-level sports betting bills became legal.
The legislation from Pallone, a longtime supporter of sports betting in New Jersey, appeared more friendly to states and casinos than what can be expected from Hatch or Schumer.
Who is testifying in the hearing?
The subcommittee will hear testimony from five people:
- Sara Slane, senior vice president, public affairs, American Gaming Association
- Becky Harris, chair, Nevada Gaming Control Board
- Jocelyn Moore, executive vice president, communications and public affairs, National Football League
- Jon Bruning, counselor, Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling (CSIG)
- Les Bernal, national director, Stop Predatory Gambling
Some sources indicate John Kindt, an anti-gambling professor from the University of Illinois, also will appear.
A breakdown of what to expect from their testimony can be found here. Expect Slane and Harris to back the rights of states to craft their own legislation, while Bruning and Kindt warn of the vices of iGaming. Moore will present the NFL’s position, which favors a federal law but not integrity fees.
Who is on the committee? Are any of the states that have legalized sports betting represented on the committee?
Here are the members of the subcommittee:
- James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-WI), Chair
- Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Vice Chair
- Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Ranking Member
- Karen Bass (D-CA)
- Steve Chabot (R-OH)
- Val Demings (D-FL)
- Trey Gowdy (R-SC)
- Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY)
- Mike Johnson (R-LA)
- Ted Lieu (D-CA)
- Ted Poe (R-TX)
- Jamie Raskin (D-MD)
- John Ratcliffe (R-TX)
- Cedric Richmond (D-LA)
- Martha Roby (R-AL)
- Keith Rothfus (R-PA)
- John Rutherford (R-FL)
What might jump out at you is that none of the subcommittee members hails from a state with legal sports betting. Only Rothfus represents a state with a sports betting law on the books, although Pennsylvania is not live.
Considering the potential for hyperbole in some of the testimony, the knowledge level of subcommittee members can be speculated upon. Can they weather any bluster or scare tactics to get to the substance of what is happening today in US legal sports betting?