Newest bill calling for federal sports betting oversight is DOA

Newest bill calling for federal sports betting oversight is DOA

  • Howard Stutz, CDC Gaming Reports
September 11, 2019 7:00 AM
  • Howard Stutz, CDC Gaming Reports

The Miami Dolphins stand a better chance of winning a game this season than the latest bill establishing federal guidelines for sports wagering does of getting through both houses of Congress.

Yes, win a game, not just cover the weekly double-digit underdog point spread oddsmakers will likely place on the Dolphins all season.

The sports book at the Golden Nugget Atlantic City

Last week, Gambling Compliance reported that a new piece of federal sports betting oversight – one similar to the bill that died at end of last year – is being drafted by Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, this time with Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah.

The bill would not only establish federal rules governing legal sports betting but would require sportsbook operators to purchase official data from professional sports leagues.

Why is this even needed?

“This is a misguided attempt to find a solution in search of a problem,” said Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nevada, whose Las Vegas district includes the Strip and some of the nation’s largest sports wagering operations – and is never one to mince her words.

“Nevada sets the gold standard when it comes to regulated sports betting, and I will ensure that we have a seat at the table in any federal discussion,” Titus said.

Sixteen months ago, the U.S. Supreme Court repealed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, allowing states to open legal and regulated full-scale sportsbooks.

To date, 13 states, including Nevada’s legacy market, have launched sports betting operations through casinos, racetracks and mobile wagering applications. Another five states and Washington D.C. could launch legal sports betting by the end of the year.

Six other states have active legislation or ballot initiatives in place.

American Gaming Association CEO Bill Miller predicted last week that almost every U.S. state would have some form of legal sports betting in the next five years, regardless of whether or not casinos were located in that jurisdiction. He cited Tennessee as an example; the Volunteer State does not have any commercial casinos but has nevertheless legalized mobile sports wagering.

States that have legalized sports betting have done so with various formats, different tax rates, and non-uniform regulations, much like the casino industry. The need for federal oversight on the nation’s casino business has long gone the way of the dodo.

Since the federal ban was lifted, more than $10 billion has already been wagered legally on sports in the U.S. With the college and professional football seasons now underway – and more than twice the number of states with active legal sports betting compared to a year ago – the handle will likely increase rather rapidly.

Congress – even this dysfunctional Congress – has more crucial legislation and issues on its plate that need to be tackled. It shouldn’t have time to stick its nose into legal sports betting, nor, you could argue, should it care.

It’s obvious why Schumer and Romney see the need to get involved. It’s personal.

Schumer, a Democrat from New York, is kowtowing to the major sports leagues, most of which are headquartered in New York City. League and ownership still want a slice of the action and are trying get it by holding their official data over the betting industry’s heads.

Just this week, SportsHandle reported that a sports betting bill being pushed by a Michigan lawmaker includes a mandate to use official league data. Tennessee was the first state to require official league data be used in its mobile-only platform.

Meanwhile, more than 40 professional teams – including several NFL franchises – have reached marketing and sponsorship agreements with major gaming companies and casinos.

Romney replaced the recently retired, ultra-conservative, Utah Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, who was Schumer’s co-sponsor on the bill last year. Representing one of only two states without any form of legal gambling whatsoever, Romney, who has criticized President Donald Trump, needs to boost his bonafides with his conservative base.

Ironically, Hawaii, the only other state without any legal gambling, was one of 18 states that saw a sports betting bill die in legislation this year.

The rush to the betting window is not going away anytime soon.

Last fall, the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations held a 90-minute hearing, ostensibly on legal sports betting. It was all for show; the testimony rapidly diverged into more of a debate over online gambling.

Speakers from the AGA and the Nevada Gaming Control Board were able to point out that states already have some 4,000 gaming regulators – with budgets that collectively exceed $1.3 billion – to oversee the gaming industry.

Casinos – and, now, sportsbooks – also comply with federally enforced anti-money laundering rules governed by the U.S. Department of Treasury.

Deep down, Schumer and Romney know their bill is dead on arrival.

Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at hstutz@cdcgamingreports.com. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.