Senator Orrin Hatch Promises New Federal Sports Betting LegislationBy Jill R. Dorson | Published: May 15, 2018 at 7:27 am
One of the original authors of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which was struck down by the Supreme Court on Monday, didn’t waste any time in renewing his efforts to “protect” the integrity of sporting events. Utah Senator Orrin Hatch announced that he plans to introduce legislation to regulate sports betting now that its legality has become a state issue.
“At stake here is the very integrity of sports,” said Hatch in a statement released by his office Monday. “That’s why I plan to introduce legislation in the coming weeks to help protect honesty and principle in the athletic arena.”
Hatch, 84, is set to retire when his current term runs out. The long-time Republican senator is Mormon, and and his religion shuns gambling of any kind. Gambling is also not legal in Utah. It would be fair to say that whatever Hatch has planned likely won’t make it any easier on the states that want to legalize sports betting.
Republican Senator Hatch Sees Greater Threat to Sports Betting Now Than He Did in 1992, When He Helped Author PASPA.
As far as Hatch is concerned, little has changed since he and and three other congressmen authored PASPA in 1992. In fact, he appears to feel that with the proliferation of the internet, the threat to sports’ integrity is even greater.
“The problems posed by sports betting are much the same as they were 25 years ago,” he said in the statement. “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.”
Based on his comments, it would seem highly unlikely that Hatch would support mobile or online sports betting, which many state lawmakers see as a key component of any modern sportsbook.
PASPA, which effectively outlaws sports betting in every state except Nevada, was under review by the Supreme Court after the state of New Jersey tried to make sports betting legal. Oral arguments in the case, Murphy v NCAA, were heard in December, and on Monday the high court released its opinion, in essence saying that the law violates states’ rights.
In the majority opinion, Justice Alito stated:
“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. The judgment of the Third Circuit is reversed.”
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver on Monday Endorsed the Idea of a Federal Framework for Sports Betting.
Sports betting isn’t a new issue in Congress. Hatch’s promise of legislation will just be the body’s latest foray in sports wagering. Last year, New Jersey Democrat Frank Pallone and New Jersey Republican Frank Lobiondo introduced House bills that would have made the decision to legalize (or not) sports betting a state issue.
Now that the high court has struck down PASPA, professional sports leagues are turning their attention to Congress. The leagues, most notably the NBA and Major League Baseball, have been lobbying state across the country to include a so-called “integrity fee” that would be paid to the leagues in legislation. On Monday, NBA commissioner Adam Silver didn’t waste any time in inviting Congress into the discussion.
“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,” Silver said in a statement. “Regardless of the particulars of any future sports betting law, the integrity of our game remains our highest priority.”
The NFL, which has remained mostly mum on this issue, allowing the NBA and MLB to take the lead in lobbying states, weighed in on the issue Monday. The NFL would support Congress creating a “core regulatory framework for legalized sports betting,” it said in a statement. Notably, the NFL and former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue were instrumental in getting PASPA passed in ’92.
The question is whether Hatch, who clearly sees sports betting as a sin, is the person the leagues want to be working with. Again.