US Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) spoke for 12 minutes on the Senate floor this week about a need for federal regulation of sports betting, a gambling activity that was liberalized in May by the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS).

Orrin Hatch sports betting PASPA

Orrin Hatch wants the federal government to once again interject itself into sports betting. (Image: Al Hartmann/Salt Lake Tribune)

SCOTUS said in a 6-3 decision that the longstanding Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), which Hatch coauthored back in 1992, violated the US Constitution on anti-commandeering interpretations of the Tenth Amendment. With the federal prohibition lifted, states are currently free to determine their own sports betting laws and regulations. Hatch says that must change.

“I’d like to say up front that I’m not a fan of sports betting,” the senator explained. “I have grave concerns about gambling, and sports betting in particular. There’s no question that sports betting has ruined far too many lives.”

Hatch said of his PASPA bill, “I authored this legislation and fought tooth and nail to get it passed because I knew without it, sports gambling would corrupt the integrity of the game.”

Federal Oversight

In his Senate floor remarks, Hatch said he’s a realist and understands that an outright ban on sports betting is no longer viable. However, he’s calling on members of Congress to help draft federal standards to protect consumers and the integrity of the game.

Widespread sports betting, Hatch and others including commissioners of the NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL, argue will greater jeopardize the integrity of sport. Concerns over match-fixing and point-shaving have been presented.

“Sports betting is inevitable, let’s make sure it’s done right,” Hatch declared. “To do it right, we need to make sure that state regulatory frameworks are not a race to the bottom. I firmly believe that we need a set of fundamental federal standards that will protect the integrity of the games.”

Hatch says he will soon introduce legislation to do just that. It’s worth noting that the 84-year-old is not seeking an eighth term in the Senate, and will retire in January.

Should Congress pass a sports betting governing framework in the future, the federal law would supersede state regulations. “Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, each State is free to act on its own,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the SCOTUS decision.

Gaming Industry Responds

Since the SCOTUS overturn, Delaware, New Jersey, and Mississippi have joined Nevada in offering full-fledged sports betting. Laws to regulate sports wagering have additionally been passed in Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Fourteen other states have considered sports betting legislation.

Hatch believes Congress must act, but the gaming industry says sports betting should be left up to the states.

“Federal oversight of sports betting was an abject failure, succeeding only in enabling the growth of a massive illegal market,” American Gaming Association Senior VP of Public Affairs Sara Slane said in a release. “The Supreme Court decision removed this unconstitutional federal overreach, allowing states and sovereign tribal nations – who have proven to be effective regulators of all gaming – to decide what works best for their constituents.”