As New Jersey prepares its ‘nuclear option’ for legal sports betting, one of the state’s federal representatives is taking another run at lifting the US betting ban.
On Thursday, New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. introduced the Gaming Accountability and Modernization Enhancement Act of 2017, aka the GAME Act. The bill seeks to repeal the federal PASPA sports betting prohibition that is preventing Pallone’s home state from proceeding with its plan to offer legal betting at Atlantic City casinos and state racetracks.
The main objective of the Act is to prevent the feds from imposing civil or criminal penalties on any person or licensed entity engaged in retail or online betting that their home state has declared lawful. The Act’s definition of ‘bet or wager’ includes sports betting, lotteries, daily fantasy sports and fantasy eSports.
The Act also requires betting-friendly states to enact sufficient consumer protections – data integrity, problem gambling safeguards, a method for redress if these protections aren’t followed, etc. – to ensure bettors don’t get the shaft. The Federal Trade Commission would have a role to play in ensuring these protections are sufficient if a company offered wagering to residents of more than one state.
Pallone has made a habit of introducing federal sports betting legislation over the past few years, with his most recent effort coming just a few months ago. This new bill comes just one day after the Acting Solicitor General’s office urged the US Supreme Court not to hear New Jersey’s appeal of lower court rulings blocking its latest sports betting legislation.
Meanwhile, New Jersey is reportedly preparing to exercise its so-called ‘nuclear option,’ in which the state would decline to enforce any state laws against betting, effectively creating a ‘wild west’ environment in which pretty much anyone could hang out their bookmaking shingle without fear of prosecution.
Dennis Drazin, an adviser for the state’s Monmouth Park racetrack, told the Asbury Park Press that the state would be “moving forward with the full repeal” if the Supreme Court followed the Solicitor General’s advice. The Court is expected to announce whether it will hear the case by June 26, the starting date of its summer recess.
Drazin said the state’s betting stakeholders expected the Court to decline to hear the appeal, “so we’re anticipating trying to get [the full repeal] moved sometime next month.” Drazin noted that Gov. Chris Christie was a strong supporter of the state’s sports betting push, “and I would anticipate he would support this move also.”
The prevailing theory behind exercising the nuclear option is to create an environment that the nation’s major sports leagues find intolerable. The leagues have been the most vocal opponents of New Jersey’s betting legalization efforts, with some like the NFL opposing any association with gambling while others like the NBA insist the only way forward is a federal solution (much like Pallone’s Act).