DC, Michigan legislatures each passed gambling laws this week
Legal Sports Report

Last Week In Sports Betting: Everyone’s Looking At You, DC (And Michigan Too)

DC sports betting

It feels like we’ve said this at least a half a dozen times this year, but this time we really mean it.

This last week was — without question — the busiest week of sports betting news since the US Supreme Court repealed PASPA in May. There have been plenty of busy weeks over the past seven months, mind you, but none quite as relentless as this one.

Two separate (and potentially pivotal) storylines spilled from the nation’s capital last week, so we’ll begin our recap with a forlorn glare at the federal government.

Let’s get right down to it, shall we?

US government to meddle in sports betting …

On Wednesday, multiple reports indicated that a bipartisan pair of US senators was preparing to introduce a federal sports betting bill.

LSR confirmed those reports and obtained a draft of the bill. It weighs in at an impressive 101 pages.

The proposal from Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) moves to install an extra layer of federal oversight on top of state-regulated sports betting. Their bill includes a mandate that operators use official league data through 2024, but there is no provision for an integrity fee of any sort. So that’s a small silver lining, at least.

You can read some immediate reactions to the bill here.

Even better, John Holden offers some of his own expert analysis here.

… and online gambling?

The second big story from the federal government is still developing. It also came to light on Wednesday.

Our sister site Online Poker Report was the first to disclose the possibility that the US Department of Justice is considering a revisit of the Wire Act.

The current interpretation of that 1961 federal law, last updated in 2011, applies very narrowly to sports betting. But the DOJ is reportedly considering reversing that opinion, possibly reverting to the broader 2002 reading which covers all forms of internet gambling.

In recent weeks, two separate members of Congress expressed a desire to “restore” that old and legally questionable interpretation — Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner and Sen. Lindsey Graham. As of late Friday afternoon, however, nothing to this end materialized.

Needless to say, a change to this law could have a monumental impact on the gambling industry as a whole. Here’s some of the second-level analysis we compiled as we worked through the possible ramifications:

Council passes DC sports betting bill

A new jurisdiction passing fresh sports betting legislation would be the headline news in pretty much any typical week. This was not a typical week.

On Tuesday afternoon, lawmakers in the District of Columbia signed off on a bill that would legalize both land-based and online/mobile sports betting. It passed by a lopsided 11-2 vote.

The most interesting section of B 22-944 addresses Class A licensure, which is exclusively available to four sports venues within city limits. Outside of those and other Class B retail establishments, DC bettors will apparently be forced to use the District’s own sportsbook app, powered by exaggerating Intralot.

DC sports betting is set to become legal pending a signature from Mayor Muriel Bowser and a mandatory congressional review.

Did Michigan just legalize online sports betting?

Here’s a fun one.

Lawmakers in Michigan passed a bill to legalize online poker and casino games during the proverbial 11th hour of their legislative session.

More literally, it actually came during the 18th hour of the marathon day of legislation. Both chambers were scheduled to adjourn on Thursday, but both ended up needing a bonus day on Friday to clear the to-do list.

The bill from Rep. Brandt Iden cleared the Senate before midnight, then received concurrence from the House well after 3 a.m. local time. It now heads to the desk of Gov. Rick Snyder for a final decision, and it is generally presumed he will sign it into law.

Whats’s perhaps most notable for our purposes is this one-liner within the text:

The division may permit internet gaming operators licensed by the division to accept internet wagers under this act on any amateur or professional sporting event or contest.

Internet wagers on sporting events, you say? There is some debate within the industry — even within the LSR staff — about the intentions and limitations of that language.

At a minimum, the clause serves as a placeholder for future legislation, which now seems more likely than ever to surface in 2019. At most, that sentence alone may provide enough authorization to kickstart a regulated, online Michigan sports betting industry.

News from other states

Here’s what happened elsewhere on the map:

Hmm … that’s actually sort of the list. As it turns out, the bulk of the headlines originated in the District rather than the surrounding 50 states.

Takes and tidbits

In an alternate universe where the news wasn’t so relentless, a few of these leftover stories could have rightly justified their own sections. Instead, they’re reduced to bullet points this week.

Here’s what tried to get lost in the shuffle over the last few days:

It’s also getting to be ‘Year in Review’ time for everyone who covers the news from any industry. Over on PlayUSA, the intrepid Bart Shirley counts down the Top Five sports betting stories from 2018.

As always, you can also listen to some of the so-called “brightest minds in the industry” run through the news on this week’s episode of TheLines Podcast. Check it:

That’s all she wrote (and spoke), ladies and gents. Chances are good we’ll be back to do it again on Friday, but we’ll see what happens between now and then.

Here’s hoping you all have a wonderful week and a very merry holiday season.

Eric Ramsey
- Eric is a reporter and writer covering regulated US gambling, sports betting, and DFS. He comes from a poker background, formerly on staff at PokerNews and the World Poker Tour.
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