Gaming Industry Fires Back After Lopsided Congressional Sports Betting Hearing

Posted on: September 28, 2018, 01:00h. 

Last updated on: September 28, 2018, 09:07h.

The gaming industry felt rather underrepresented during this week’s sports betting hearing before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations.

gaming industry sports betting hearing
The gaming industry was overmatched at Thursday’s sports betting hearing on Capitol Hill. (Image: House Judiciary Committee)

Aside from the American Gaming Association’s Sara Slane and Nevada Gaming Control Board Chair Becky Harris, the three other witnesses invited to testify during the hearing titled “Post-PASPA: An Examination of Sports Betting in America” largely held views opposing expanded gambling.

The Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) in May. The federal ban had previously prohibited full-fledged sports gambling in all but Nevada.

After the SCOTUS decision that handed sports betting rights back to the states, Congress is mulling intervention. Slane emphasized that “federal oversight … is unnecessary in ongoing efforts to create effective legal sports betting markets in the United States.”

Industry Response

The House subcommittee hearing was a start for Congress to decide if the federal government should write a series of national regulatory conditions that states wishing to legalize sports betting be required to follow. Senators Chuck Schumer (D-New York) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) believe DC lawmakers must take the lead to protect consumers and both college and pro sports leagues.

Slane, as well as Harris, argued states are more than qualified to regulate sports gambling.

Harris pointed to the successful sports betting environment in Nevada, which has been in operation for several decades. Slane cited the fact that gaming is already one of the most strictly regulated industries in America, and another added regulatory layer will make it impossible for legal sportsbooks to compete with offshore illegal ones.

In a Washington Examiner op-ed published after the hearing, Chuck Canterbury, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, the nation’s oldest and largest law enforcement labor group, said the feds should stay away.

The 25-year-old federal prohibition on sports betting … was not only ineffective at preventing illegal sports betting, but it was actually helping to facilitate it,” Canterbury opined. “Today, millions of Americans bet on sports through a massive illegal market that operates outside the reach of law enforcement with no regulatory oversight, no means of protecting the integrity of the games, and no safeguards for consumers.”

Canterbury concluded, “PASPA’s resounding failure has taught us a valuable lesson: Federal oversight is not the solution.”

Three Against Two

Despite Slane and Harris’ arguments, the three other witnesses seemed to win over Subcommittee Chair Jim Sensenbrenner (D-Wisconsin). NFL representative Jocelyn Moore, Coalition to Stop Online Gambling attorney Jon Bruning, and Stop Predatory Gambling Director Les Bernal testified on a variety of fears sports betting expansion could bring to the country.

From allegedly jeopardizing the integrity of the games, to questioning the legality of mobile sports gambling as it relates to the Wire Act, the three stressed the importance of a federal framework.

Sensenbrenner ended the hearing by opining, “I think the one thing you all agree on is that for Congress to do nothing is the worst possible alternative. This means we have some work to do.”