US senate grinches deliver federal sports betting oversight bill


us-federal-sports-betting-oversightUS sports betting could come under increased federal oversight under a new bipartisan bill pushed by two high-profile senators.

On Wednesday, the Associated Press revealed that Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) were preparing to introduce the Sports Wagering Market Integrity Act of 2018 in the dying days of the current congressional session. A draft of the proposed bill originally surfaced earlier this month.

Before we go any further, it’s worth parsing the accompanying statements made by each senator, particularly Hatch’s hope that the bill “will serve as a placeholder for the next Congress, should they decide to continue working to address these issues.” Hatch is retiring at the end of the current Congress.

Schumer will still be around in January, and says he will “strongly advocate for this bill to move forward and for Congress to vote to pass federal legislation very soon.” However, few observers expect Congress to expend much energy on this bill in the rapidly closing window of time before legislators head home for Christmas.

The new bill largely resembles the draft that circulated earlier this month. The idea is to give the federal government responsibility for approving state-level betting legislation to ensure it complies with a uniform set of standards.

Among these standards is the mandated use of league-supplied or -licensed data for wagering purposes, a consolation prize for not pushing for the leagues’ previous demands for a cut of wagering handle, variously known as an ‘integrity fee’ or just a plain old royalty. While the original draft mandated the use of this data until at least through 2022, the new draft extends this through 2024.

Not surprisingly, the bill is garnering praise from US sports leagues, including the National Football League, which offered its “strong support” to the legislation because it “aligns with the core standards” the NFL has previously expressed to federal legislators.

The American Gaming Association (AGA) took the opposite tack, characterizing the bill as “a non-starter” and “the epitome of a solution in search of a problem, representing an unprecedented and inappropriate expansion of federal involvement in the gaming industry.”

Since the US Supreme Court overturned the federal betting prohibition in May, six states – Delaware, Mississippi, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and West Virginia – have joined Nevada in offering legal single-game wagering. New Mexico has yet to formally approve the activity, but a lone tribal casino is nonetheless offering bets under its gaming compact, and the District of Columbia approved its own betting legislation just this week.