The American Conservative Union (ACU) leads an unlikely de facto coalition of conservative groups and law enforcement officials telling Congress to stay out of sports betting regulation.
That group puts on the annual Conservative Political Action Conference — better known as CPAC. Conservative politicians flock to the influential gathering each year to drum up support.
The ACU is one of six advocacy groups that last week sent letters to Congress urging restraint on federal sports betting regulation. The group’s letter points out that 90 percent of CPAC attendees favor leaving sports betting regulation to states. It concludes:
While we appreciate the work the subcommittee is undertaking and feel it is important to hear the perspective of individuals with expertise in this area, we hope that Members of Congress look to what the courts have said on this issue and allow states to be the arbiters on the question of sports betting.
A CPAC endorsement of state-level sports betting regulation effectively could block federal action in the House. It is difficult to envision the right-wing Freedom Caucus that controls much of what reaches the House floor bucking the ACU on sports betting.
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) is a Freedom Caucus member and the vice chair of the House subcommittee looking at sports betting.
What it takes to get these groups to agree
The groups sent the letters opposing federal sports betting regulation to the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigation in advance of last week’s sports betting hearing on Capitol Hill.
A diverse set of political ideologies meshed on a key point: states should be allowed to decide whether to offer sports betting and how they do so.
The groups speaking out in support of state-level sports betting regulation, with their texts linked:
- Americans for Tax Reform
- Consumer Action for a Strong Economy
- Fraternal Order of Police
- Major County Sheriffs of America
- National Conference of State Legislatures
Conservative cases for leaving it to the states
The conservative groups largely favor states’ rights and ability to govern themselves, a key factor in the Supreme Court repeal of PASPA. They also clearly despise the integrity fee concept:
Americans for Tax Reform
The Supreme Court ruling on the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was correct. There is no need for federal regulation in the area of sports betting. States have historically regulated various types of betting and are more than capable of formulating their own rules and regulations in this area without federal government intervention …
… Congressmen and Senators should not cast a shadow over this good news for self- government by suggesting that Washington should regulate what they can no longer ban— betting on sports. That includes the threat of a government mandated payout to the NFL, NHL, and NCAA at the expense of fans coyly called an “integrity fee.”
The so-called integrity fee is classic rent seeking behavior – asking the government for economic resources from another business without benefits to wealth creation. The various leagues and sports betting businesses are more than capable of setting up their own agreements in the free market. We have already seen one such agreement between MGM and the NBA.
Consumer Action for a Strong Economy
Not only will federal interference smother the initiative of the states to legislate according to the needs and desires of their individual constituencies, but the heavy hand of Washington could push bettors back into the arms of shady and illegal operators if legitimate betting houses that provide zero consumer protections and completely lack oversight.
A heavy-handed approach from Washington is the surest way to squash the numerous benefits the Supreme Court afforded us with their judicious ruling …
… we should not forget that PASPA was a total disaster, and not repeat its many mistakes. By criminalizing sports betting so thoroughly, PASPA gave a windfall to shady and criminal enterprises who gladly raked in the money …
… Heavy taxes, fees or burdens of any kind will put legitimate betting houses at a competitive disadvantage with their criminal counterparts, enticing more bettors to wager outside the law. This was exactly the unintended consequence of PASPA, and a reminder that even when Washington acts with good intentions, unintended and harmful consequences can frequently outweigh the benefits of their actions.
Why law enforcement wants Congress to stay out it
Law enforcement sees a chance for state-level regulation to bring criminal activity into the light and to protect bettors:
Major County Sheriffs of America
SCOTUS lifted the handcuffs off the states to empower local law enforcement with tools to maintain a safer environment, and it is incumbent upon state legislators to enact sound policy that will protect consumers and enhance the safety of our communities.
Fraternal Order of Police
Federal law enforcement should focus on the pursuit of criminals and their organizations beyond the jurisdiction of state and local law enforcement and leave the regulation of sports betting to the states that elect to allow it. This, Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee, is the best option from the public safety perspective.
What happened at the sports betting hearing
Thursday’s 90-minute hearing produced little substance. It mostly provided a stale forum for House members to ask unusual questions and receive brief responses from legal sports betting proponents and anti-gaming advocates.
Subcommittee Chairman Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) apparently heard a different song than the one being played, concluding the hearing by saying:
“I think the one thing that all of you agree on is that for Congress to do nothing is the worst possible alternative. So this means we have some work to do.”
The unlikely tapestry of groups above would disagree with Sensenbrenner’s conclusion. They agree that states are best left to blaze their own paths on sports betting.