Senator Orrin Hatch Wants Federal Regulation of Sports Betting

So this week has been an exciting one in the gambling world, hasn’t it? The United States Supreme Court deemed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA) unconstitutional, making it permissible for states to legalize and regulate sports betting. A handful of states, including the state we have to thank for this legal victory, New Jersey, will likely have sports betting going within weeks. A number of others have legislation in the works and might not be too far behind. And then there is Senator Orrin Hatch (R – Utah), one of the original authors of PASPA, who announced just after the PASPA ruling that he wants sports gambling regulated on the federal level.

On his Congressional website, Sen. Hatch said:

The problems posed by sports betting are much the same as they were 25 years ago. But the rapid rise of the Internet means that sports betting across state lines is now just a click away. We cannot allow this practice to proliferate amid uneven enforcement and a patchwork race to the regulatory bottom. At stake here is the very integrity of sports. That’s why I plan to introduce legislation in the coming weeks to help protect honesty and principle in the athletic arena. I invite stakeholders and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join me in addressing this important issue.

And then, for some reason, his office made a statement, which read, “It will be up to each state to decide whether to legalize and sports gambling and how to regulate it. But given that sports betting activity can now be conducted across state lines via the Internet, Senator Hatch believes we need to ensure there are some federal standards in place to ensure that state regulatory frameworks aren’t a race to the bottom.”

Hatch definitely sounds like an old man scared of the internet and the untold horrors of gambling (he represents Utah, after all, a state which has no legalized gambling of any kind), but trying to regulate sports betting on the federal level – as long as it isn’t banned – is not unreasonable.

On the web page that includes Hatch’s statement, a few bullet points are laid out, including one that says, “The Supreme Court has acknowledged that Congress can regulate sports betting directly.”

This is true, the Supreme Court’s majority opinion concluded with, “The legalization of sports gambling requires an important policy choice, but the choice is not ours to make. Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, each state is free to act on its own.”

Though the sports leagues have been the ones lobbying and running up legal bills to keep sports betting illegal, NBA commissioner Adam Silver has been in favor of legalized sports gambling for a number of years. Like Sen. Hatch, he would also like to see it regulated federally, rather than state-by-state:

“Today’s decision by the Supreme Court opens the door for states to pass laws legalizing sports betting,” Silver said earlier this week. “We remain in favor of a federal framework that would provide a uniform approach to sports gambling in states that choose to permit it, but we will remain active in ongoing discussions with state legislatures. Regardless of the particulars of any future sports betting law, the integrity of our game remains our highest priority.”

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