House Judiciary Subcommittee Holds Hearing To Push Federal Sports Betting Regulations

House Judiciary Subcommittee Holds Hearing To Push Federal Sports Betting Regulations

If yesterday wasn’t already the biggest Capitol Hill/circus sideshow in recent memory, the various busybodies of the House Judiciary subcommittee held a hearing on the “need” for sports betting regulation at the federal level. Of course, since the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA, 1992) was recently proved – by the Supreme Court – to show that Congress is demonstrably unfit to institute sports betting guidelines (they promise to get it right this time around!), it’s difficult – as a competent observer actually concerned with the industry – to take them seriously.

Consider: Since PASPA’s overturn, there have been only four states – all with long-running, established gambling markets – to implement sports betting legislation and legalize the practice: Delaware, New Jersey, Mississippi, and West Virginia. (Pennsylvania has also made the practice legal, but their expensive licensing and tax requirements have so far prevented any casino from opening their own sportsbook in the state.) None of these states seems to have had any problems establishing their rules and standards, and they are all perfectly capable of regulating this industry successfully. That is borne out by the fact that their other long-established gambling enterprises continue to function successfully, fairly, and safely without federal government interference.

So why does the US government want to have sports betting laws in place that affect all markets in all states equally, despite every market being fundamentally different from every other market?

Well, it depends on which elected representative you ask.

For example, Wisconsin Republican Jim Sensenbrenner is extremely fearful that, without federal oversight, “there are going to be people who get hurt and get hurt badly.” He didn’t elaborate on exactly who these potential victims are or how they could be harmed, of course, but, you know, think of the children and stuff. Indeed, says Sensenbrenner, “For Congress to do nothing is the worst possible alternative.” As if that’s ever been true for anything.

Apparently, though, that was a theme in the hearing, with these crooks all pretending like sports betting – particularly online sports betting – would somehow “target minors,” mainly because these kids and their newfangled Internets are just made for each other in a way that requires federal oversight. Representative Bob Goodlatte (R, Virginia), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, doubled down on the Internet being the impetus here. Sports betting, claims Goodlatte, requires federal oversight because it cannot be “contained” within the borders of individual states.

Uh, no.

Goodlatte, like all his brethren, is either technologically incompetent or a brazen liar (or, most likely, both), because there are already mechanisms in place to prevent gamblers from using the Internet to place bets across state borders. Heck, there’s even a federal law – the Interstate Wire Act of 1961 – that does exactly that! And the technology used to “lock” state borders down for this kind of thing has been around for over a decade. It’s called “geo-fencing,” and it’s already in place in Nevada. That’s why a gambler in Florida, for example, cannot just use the Internet to access a Las Vegas sportsbook and place a bet. This is basic stuff, and Goodlatte has no excuse to misrepresent reality as he has. But then again, that’s sort of his job. Goodlatte blunders on, doubling down on the emotional rhetoric:

“I do not believe gambling is a victimless activity. I think that online gambling, in particular, can be more destructive to the families and communities of addictive gamblers than if a bricks-and-mortar (sic) casino were built next door.”

He presented compelling evidence to back up that claim, too:

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Of course, says the government, legalized sports betting – fully regulated by and geo-fenced to individual states – could also lead to shenanigans on the scoreboard in ostensibly potentiating match-fixing. You know, because the $500 billion black market sports betting industry in the US – which went (and goes) completely unpoliced by any third party – couldn’t already make that happen.

The fact that all the major sports leagues have long had mechanisms in place to identify attempted match-fixing – and that they have demonstrably done so countless times in the past – is apparently irrelevant, even to the leagues themselves.

Jocelyn Moore, a lobbyist for the NFL, used the tired notion of “integrity” (as in “integrity fees”) two dozen times in her written testimony, claiming that without limiting sports betting to those aged 21 or older (which is already done independently by every state that has legalized sports betting) and without requiring sportsbooks to use “official data” from the leagues – for a hefty fee, of course – there would be no way to police the action adequately to prevent cheaters from altering the outcomes of sporting events. Because reasons.

The most asinine assertion from Moore, however, is that the federal government must ban in-game betting because these types of wagers are “particularly susceptible to match-fixing.” How she figures that a fleeting in-game bet – generated by a dynamic algorithm and only on betting boards for mere seconds before expiring – could possibly be used to fix games is anyone’s guess, and Moore didn’t feel compelled to elaborate on her line of reasoning. I mean, unless athletes are actively checking their smartphones in the middle of their matchups to take some sort of small-money advantage of these 10-second in-game wagering lines, it’s literally a non-issue. “Time-out, ump – Let me just check the live lines at my sportsbook real quick.” It’s fake news.

Fortunately, USA online sportsbooks feels there is not a lot of enthusiasm in the House to pursue this line of inquiry, as many lawmakers are likely trepidatious of installing a new law to replace an old law that was just struck down by the Supreme Court for being wildly and blatantly unconstitutional. Until such a time as the states themselves prove unable to manage their own sports betting industries, the federal government will likely just turn its attention to stealing everyone’s money from other, more traditional avenues.

Honestly, the feds need to just take their already-mandated 5% vig and pound sand.