US House hears contrasting views on federal regulation

US House hears contrasting views on federal regulation

Friday, September 28, 2018 Posted by News Team
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AGA and Nevada regulator support state regulation, while NFL argues for federal model

The US House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations held its long-anticipated hearing on the potential for federal regulation of sports betting yesterday. 

Post-PASPA: An Examination of Sports Betting in America, saw speakers pitch their views on whether or not sports betting should be regulated at a federal level to Representatives. 

This failed to throw up any surprises, with the American Gaming Association (AGA) reiterating its support for a state-by-state framework, backed by the Nevada Gaming Commission. The National Football League (NFL), meanwhile, renewed calls for federal oversight of wagering. 

An anti-gambling advocate used the hearing to argue that states were not fit to regulate gambling. A lawyer representing the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling then appeared to reveal a new, softer stance on iGaming from the previously vocally anti-gambling body.

AGA senior vice president of public affairs Sara Slane emphasised that federal oversight of sports betting was unnecessary due to the “active, robust state and regulatory tribal gaming oversight”

“Gaming is one of the most strictly regulated industries in America,” Slane told the subcommittee. “Right now, over 4,000 gaming regulators with budgets that exceed $1.3bn oversee the gaming industry.”

Nevada Gaming Control Board chair Becky Harris echoed Slane’s testimony, saying that it was not the right time for federal engagement with gambling. 

“States do a great job in every area including sports betting and we’ve just begun to see the roll out in other states,” she explained. “Nevada has a comprehensive regulatory structure that has been refined over decades, and we have a lot of integrity in our process.”

Slane added: “Just as Congress has refrained from regulating lotteries, slot machines, table games and other gambling products, it should leave sports betting oversight to the states and tribes that are closest to the market. 

“With such robust and rigorous regulatory oversight at both the state and federal levels, there is no need to overcomplicate or interfere with a system that is already working.”

This contrasted with testimony from NFL executive vice president of communications and public affairs Jocelyn Moore who argued in favour of a federal framework. 

Moore warned that permitting sports betting could undo more than 50 years of the US Congress’ work to protect professional and amateur sports contests from corruption. 

“To protect consumers and the integrity of our games in a post-PASPA environment, we urge Congress to immediately act to create new statutory and regulatory standards for legalized sports betting in the United States,” Moore said. 

“Historically, the federal government has left authorization and regulation of non-sports gambling to the States,” she continued. “In the case of sports betting, however, because of the substantial public interest in combating threats to the integrity of sporting contests, the federal government has long maintained a distinction between sports betting and other forms of gambling.”

Moore added that while she respected state rights, she - and the NFL - believe that sports betting creates “dangers of national importance” and should therefore be regulated at a federal level. 

The anti-gambling voice came from Les Bernal, national director of the Stop Predatory Gambling group, and Jon Bruning of Bruning Law Group, representing the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling. 

Bernal said that Americans were expected to lose $118bn of their personal wealth to government-sanctioned gambling in 2018. This, he said, would grow to $1tn over the next eight years if Congress did not take action to stop sports betting. 

Unlike Moore, he was scathing about state regulation of gambling, condemning states as “laboratories of fraud, exploitation and budgetary shell games” when it came to gambling policy. 

Bruning, meanwhile, argued that federal oversight was necessary, as the internet was by its nature an interstate phenomenon. 

“States are ill-equipped to enforce gambling laws against interstate and international companies, particularly given the technological vulnerabilities of the internet and age and location verification mechanisms that are subject to compromise,” he said. 

However, Bruning focused on attacking illegal gambling, calling for the restoration of the Wire Act to target illegal providers. In what appeared to be a shift in the Coalition’s stance, he said that states could generate revenue from legal online sports betting and gambling - but only if the Wire Act is restored and vigorously enforced. 

“Without proper federal investigatory and prosecutorial resources, our citizens, including children and problem gamblers, will be protected only by the promises of foreign gaming corporations,” he said in conclusion.

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