Debate Over Federal Involvement In Sports Betting Spikes With New Legislation
Are federal standards needed when it comes to sports betting in the United States? It depends on who you ask.
The NCAA certainly believes so and says that the nearly half a million students who play college sports will benefit from federal standards. Those standards will create a safe and fair environment, says the NCAA.
“With legalized sports wagering, the NCAA’s main priorities are protecting student-athlete well-being and the integrity of competiton,” said the NCAA in a statement released on December 19. “Because of this, we applaud the bipartisan support of Senators Hatch and Schumer in proposing the federal sports wagering legislation.”
If you yawned when you read the word “integrity” in the NCAA’s statement, you were not alone. That was the word trumpeted by the NCAA, as well as every professional sports league, for decades while a federal prohibition on sports betting was kept in place (until being overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in May 2018). Those same professional leagues are much more concerned with exploiting the commercial opportunities of sports betting in December 2018 than they are with integrity issues, which have yet to arise since states began implementing their respective sports betting legalization plans one-by-one.
Since May 2018, MGM Resorts has signed gaming partnership deals with Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League and the National Basketball Association. The NBA has also signed these types of arrangements with The Stars Group and FanDuel, each company offering sports betting where it is licensed. This is just the tip of the iceberg for the monies that professional sports leagues intend to earn directly from service providers, but they want more.
Introducing, the Sports Wagering Market Integrity Act of 2018. This bill being pushed by Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) would create a national sports wagering clearinghouse to provide operators with wagering data in real-time and require operators to only use league data, for a fee. Darren Rovell of The Action Network says that it would turn the business of data for leagues into a sector worth more than $1 billion.
The National Football League, like the NCAA, supports the legislation. It cites to the need for safeguards for consumers and the assistance of monitoring and tools for law enforcement. It also says it is needed to protect league content and intellectual property, which is not explained and hard to justify.
The most outspoken critic of the legislation is likely the American Gaming Association (AGA), a national trade group that represents the U.S. casino industry. It says that the bill is the epitome of a solution in search of a problem.
AGA Senior Vice President of Public Affairs Sara Slaine says that the bill represents “an unprecedented and inappropriate expansion of federal involvement in the gaming industry, which is currently one of the most strictly regulated in the country” and adds that “the mandatory use of official league data and the creation of a national sports wagering clearinghouse – can, and should, be decided by marketplace negotiations between private businesses and cooperative agreements among jurisdictions.”
Slane notes that, since the U.S. Supreme Court paved the way for legal, regulated sports betting, there have been significant developments on data use and monitoring without federal involvement.