Members of Congress will meet this week to formally discuss sports betting for the first time since the US Supreme Court struck down the federal ban in May.
On Thursday, the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigation will hear testimony from five stakeholders with diverging views on the emerging industry.
We have seen the NFL’s written testimony, and the requests are enormous and at times conflicting. Read on …
What to expect from the NFL
Like the other leagues, the NFL has expressed a preference for a federal sports betting framework. It hasn’t been nearly as loud about it as the NBA and MLB, though.
Jocelyn Moore, the league’s executive vice president of communications and public affairs, submitted seven pages of written testimony for Thursday’s hearing. Within it are the league’s major requests to Congress, many of which do not stand out — ensuring bettors are of legal age and requiring operators to be licensed and audited is red meat for all. It’s the same as what state-level regulators already do.
The more onerous asks are requiring operators to purchase official league data and giving leagues control of wager types. The official data pitch resembles the NBA’s deal with MGM, which was accomplished through the private market, not federal regulation.
The wagering restrictions would destroy in-play as bettors know it:
“… restrict, limit, or exclude wagers that are not determined solely by the final score or outcome of the event.”
That raises the question of why an official data purchase would be necessary. If the only available wager is the final score, everyone watching a TV can see what that is.
What to expect from the hearing
The title of the hearing is listed as “Post-PASPA: An Examination of Sports Betting in America.” As far as actionable results, don’t expect too much to come of it.
It’s an election year, first of all, and gaming legislation is low on the list of priorities. In addition, the confirmation proceedings for Judge Brett Kavanaugh continue to draw full attention of lawmakers in the capital. Much of the House subcommittee will likely attended that hearing on Thursday rather than this one. And many of the members that do attend will be dissecting the issue for the very fist time.
Consider it more of an exploratory, educational discussion at the grade-school level, then.
Here’s the list of witnesses lined up to testify in addition to Moore:
- Les Bernal: National Director, Stop Predatory Gambling
- Sara Slane: Senior Vice President of Public Affairs, American Gaming Association
- Jon Bruning: Counselor, Coalition to Stop Online Gambling
- Becky Harris: Chair, Nevada Gaming Control Board
Given what we know about these folks, we can make a few assumptions about what to expect. Everyone involved on all sides will repeatedly cite integrity and consumer protection as being of the utmost importance — that much is certain. And everyone will agree on the need to attack the black market, too. But there will be at least three different viewpoints on how to accomplish that, ranging from state oversight to mandated data usage to complete prohibition.
What to expect from proponents
Sara Slane and Becky Harris are the two clear proponents on the list.
As the chief advocate for regulated gambling in the US, the AGA has been vocal in support of sports betting expansion. Slane will primarily work to underscore the advantages of state regulation over a federal framework. That is the AGA’s stance as a group, and she’ll almost certainly cite Nevada sports betting as the model to follow.
“It’s really an opportunity for us to talk about how highly regulated we are in this industry,” Slane told Legal Sports Report.
Expect Harris to take that baton and run with it, using the case study from her own jurisdiction. Nevada has decades of experience protecting customers and the integrity of the games amid legal sports betting.
Slane will probably be the one to address the sports leagues head-on. Both she and Harris understand the tight margins under which sportsbooks operate, but Slane is more apt to stress the importance of limiting additional burdens like integrity fees. Both women will generally ask lawmakers not to meddle in sports betting at the federal level.
Urging the same sort of hands-off approach, two members of Congress representing states with regulated gambling wrote the committee this week:
“As members from states that have already legalized, regulated, and opened the doors to sports betting, we have seen success of regulation at the state level and feel proposals for a federal framework should be approached with caution.”
You’ll also hear Slane, in particular, discuss the size and dangers of the unregulated and under-regulated industry operating illegally in the US.
What to expect from opponents
There are also two witnesses that fall clearly among the opposition to widespread state regulation.
Les Bernal and John Bruning represent national anti-gambling organizations fighting against expanded sports betting. Both men carry titles that make them easily identifiable.
Bernal’s name is a new one on the list, replacing professor and fellow gambling opponent John Kindt. He’s familiar to those who’ve followed previous gambling legislation, though, a firebrand with a devout viewpoint.
Bruning’s organization is focused specifically on online gambling. Its mission statement includes this sentence: “Congress must protect United States residents and citizens by restoring the longstanding federal ban on Internet gambling.”
There has never been a federal ban on internet gambling, incidentally, as the Wire Act applies narrowly to transmissions related to sports betting. Regardless, Bruning’s stance is known. He will cite gambling expansion as a scourge to the poor, the young and the elderly.
Expect both Bernal and Bruning to ask Congress for a heavy-handed approach to sports betting legislation and regulation.