By Thomas Mitchell
Now, precisely where in the U.S. Constitution is Congress given the power to “maintain a distinct Federal interest in the integrity and character of professional and amateur sporting contests”?
But this is what a bill introduced this past week by Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York — dubbed the Sports Wagering Market Integrity Act of 2018 — claim is grounds for imposing federal suzerainty over the eight states that currently allow sports wagering.
“This bill is the first step toward ensuring that sports betting is done right in the states that choose to legalize it,” Hatch said in a press release announcing the introduction of the bill.
“As a lifelong sports fan I treasure the purity of the game, and after Murphy v. NCAA, I knew that Congress had an obligation to ensure that the integrity of the games we love was never compromised,” Schumer was quoted as saying.
Murphy v. NCAA was the case in which the Supreme Court struck down the Professional Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992, which outlawed sports gambling, though Nevada and a couple of other states were grandfathered. Hatch was one of the authors of that overturned law, which dictated how states should regulate sports betting.
Justice Samuel Alito’s opinion stated, “Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, each State is free to act on its own. Our job is to interpret the law Congress has enacted and decide whether it is consistent with the Constitution. PASPA is not. PASPA ‘regulate[s] state governments’ regulation’ of their citizens … The Constitution gives Congress no such power.”
This is because the 10th Amendment states that powers not delegated to the federal government are retained by the states and the people. But Hatch and Schumer appear to be overreaching on Alito’s contention that Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, presumably under the Interstate Commerce Clause. But Nevada and the other states are regulating the intrastate commerce of sports betting, and doing just fine without federal meddling, thank you.
The bill would prohibit sports wagers on amateur sporting events, except the Olympics and college sports; prohibit sports wagering by anyone under 21, as well as athletes, coaches, officials and others associated with sports organizations; and would require sports betting operations to buy their data from sports organizations.
That latter requirement is one reason the various professional sports leagues are in favor of the bill. It lets them tap into the lucrative proceeds of legal sports betting.
The bill also dictates that sports wagering operators allocate an “appropriate percentage of the revenue from sports wagering” to treat gambling addiction and educate on responsible gaming. Might appropriate become confiscatory?
There is already a federal excise tax on sports betting that nets an estimated $12 million a year, which presumably would increase as legal sports betting spreads and the percentage rake is increased by revenue hungry lawmakers in D.C. Of course, at some point the feds will want to take their cut from the state taxes on sports betting.
“This bill is the epitome of a solution in search of a problem, representing an unprecedented and inappropriate expansion of federal involvement in the gaming industry, which is currently one of the most strictly regulated in the country,” the Nevada Independent quoted Sara Slane, American Gaming Association’s senior vice president of public affairs, as saying. “Across the country, nearly 4,000 dedicated public servants already regulate all forms of gaming, including sports wagering, with more than $500 million committed to ensuring the integrity of commercial casinos’ operations and $822 million spent on regulation of tribal gaming in 2015 alone.”
The online news website also quoted Nevada Democratic Rep. Dina Titus, whose district includes the Las Vegas Strip, as saying, “This bill undermines Nevada’s expertise and experience in establishing a successful, regulated sports betting market. It would inject uncertainty into an established and regulated industry, weaken Nevada’s ability to promptly adapt to maintain its gold standard, and risk causing bettors and operators to leave the regulated market.”
As for integrity, who uncovered that 1994 point-shaving scheme at Arizona State? Oh yes, it was bookmakers.
This bill is a federal power grab that usurps the rights and powers of the states and does nothing for the “integrity” of sports.