Once again, sports betting is making the headlines. This time the news report is that the Congress of the United States is trying to take away the rights that belong to the fifty states according to the American constitution. Congress passed the Professional and Amateur Protection Act (PASPA) back in 1992 that made sports betting illegal in 46 states and grandfathered it in four states that already had some form of sports betting.
Only Nevada had full sports betting at the time PASPA was passed by Congress.
Congress Acted with Impunity
At the time, few said that Congress had no authority to pass any law about sports betting within the jurisdiction of a state but the Supreme Court, in May 2018, did exactly that and voided PASPA.
Congress Tries to Flout the Supreme Court
Now Congress is holding hearings about sports betting in clear defiance of the Supreme Court and the U.S. constitution.
At Slots Play Casinos, we keep track of everything that goes on especially in the online casino market but also in everything that impacts an individual citizen of the world’s right to play casino games, sports bet, or do anything in which some financial risk is involved.
If the U.S. Congress can legislate the terms by which a state can implement sports betting then Congress can dictate to online casinos everything from the size, type, and rues that define their casino bonuses, games, banking practices, and much more. In fact, in 2006, Congress passed a law called the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) that did indeed try to make online casino banking next to impossible.
A Short Primer
In short, the U.S. Constitution specifically defines where Congress has authority. The Constitution also specifically states that if an authority is not exactly given to Congress, then Congress doesn’t have that authority.
Congress has been trying to usurp the words of the Constitution since the founding of the United States.
In 2018, sports betting is caught in the crosshairs of the ongoing battle between the Congress and the states.
Where the Hearings were Held
Pay attention to the Congressional sub-committee that held hearings on sports betting: the sub-committee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigation! This clearly means that the Hose of Representatives feels that there may be some aspect of crime, terrorism, and danger to the homeland involved in legalizing sports betting.
The chairman of the sub-committee, Jim Sensenbrenner (D-WI), opened with these remarks: “The sub-committee will examine the state of sports gambling in America.”
His use of the word “gambling” was quite telling. Everyone knows that sports betting is also sports gambling but the word “gambling” has a far higher negative connotation than does the word betting. We use the word “bet” in many colloquial ways where we don’t use the word “gamble”. So, by his use of the stronger word, the chairman immediately set a tone of negativity toward sports betting.
Then chairman Sensenbrenner let the genie out of the bottle immediately. He said that the goal of the sub-committee and by extension Congress and by extension the people of the United States is to, “Protect the children and the games we love. A solution crafted by Congress must address these two principles.”
It was as if only Congress cares about protecting kids and sports. The real issue immediately became whether the states are capable of regulating sports betting within their jurisdictions.
Offshore Sports Betting
No one claims that states can regulate sports betting done from an offshore sportsbook. Regulating such enterprises can only come from the Federal government since offshore sportsbooks are not located in any single state.
The next speaker was Rep. Bob Goodlatte (Rep-VA). He spoke about the UIGEA which he was instrumental in passing. He repeated the view that online gambling is more dangerous than land based gambling for its potential to adversely impact society.
He said that states are poorly equipped to regulate online gambling despite the very real interest states have in gaining much-needed tax revenue from online gambling including sports betting.
Jocelyn Moore, the executive vice president for communications and public affairs of the National Football league spoke. She asked for federal oversight of sports betting. The NFL was opposed to legalized sports betting until the Supreme Court decision came down. Now the NFL supports sports betting because it sees the money it can realize from a well-regulated sports betting culture. Moore said, “While we respect the court’s ruling, it has ushered in a new reality. The absence of clear sports betting standards threatens the integrity of our nation’s sporting contests—something Congress has sought to protect for nearly sixty years.”
Moore stated her league’s respect for the Supreme Court decision and then immediately went on to state why the NFL does not support the decision. She spoke about the absence of clear standards which is not true in fact. The standards in New Jersey and in other states that regulate sports betting are quite clear. The unstated reference in Moore’s statement is that there are now no clear Federal standards.
That, in fact, is the point. The NFL wants one set of standards because one set of standards would make it a lot easier for the league to reap massive financial gains through sports betting.
Les Bernal represented the anti-gambling voices in America. He stated that the American people are poised to lose about one trillion dollars in the next decade to sports betting. The point that he clearly failed to mention is that a great deal of those trillion dollars would be won by other sports bettors. He also failed to mention that some of the trillion dollars would be collected as taxes by the states or by the Federal government if it succeeds in taking regulatory authority away from the states.
The sportsbooks make their money by mass sales, as it were: the more bettors there are the more money the sportsbooks make but they only make the vigorish, which is the relatively small house take from every bet.
Danger to Personal Freedom
No one at the hearings spoke about the danger to personal freedom inherent in Congress holding hearings on sports betting as if it were a crime, or an imminent act of terrorism, or a threat to the security of the American homeland.
The House of Representatives is now under the control of the Democrat Party so it will be interesting to see how the country of Democratic Socialism deals with the billions of dollars wagered every year on sports in America.