Sports and Entertainment Law Insider has been providing analysis of sports gambling since the topic emerged several years ago. In 2018, legislative interest in sports gambling rose to the forefront when the Supreme Court ruled the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was unconstitutional and overturned the ban on commercial sports betting. The ruling opened the door for states to legalize and regulate the gambling industry within their borders. Since that time, states have introduced or reintroduced legislation related to the legalization of sports gambling, with mixed results. On the federal level, Senator Orrin Hatch (Utah) indicated that federal legislation was forthcoming.
For professional sports leagues, Senators Hatch and Schumer’s introduction of the Sports Wagering Market Integrity Act of 2018 is a welcome opportunity. The proposed federal legislation would set national sports gambling standards, including the establishment of a regulatory entity to oversee sports gambling, restrict certain types of online wagers, and create the basic regulations to protect the professional sports leagues, including league statistics and data. Further, the proposed federal legislation requires sports wagering operators to use data compiled by the professional sports leagues, which is an opportunity for revenue that extends beyond the typical partnership and sponsorship agreements.
The proposed federal legislation is an opportunity for Congress to determine the basic standards for sports gambling across the country. As states struggle to develop their own regulation, this may be the perfect opportunity for Congress to implement nationwide legislation that protects core values. Ultimately, Congress will debate issues essential to successful regulation in the industry: protect the consumer; regulate gambling so that it does not encourage addictive behavior or allow access to minors; and prevent sporting contests from becoming “fixed”.
Although the bill will need to be reintroduced in the next session of Congress for any legitimate debate to develop, the Sports Wagering Market Integrity Act will be a first step towards a bipartisan effort to regulate a popular niche in the gambling industry. It should come as no surprise that several professional sports leagues have endorsed the development of federal legislation for sports gambling, citing safeguards to protect the legitimacy of professional sports. However, the NCAA has also endorsed the measure, which is likely to raise questions about the governing body’s priorities.
It remains to be seen whether President Donald J. Trump would sign any sports gambling legislation. However, if the past is any indication, the President is supportive of the sports gambling industry.