New Jersey Representative Frank Pallone Jr. (NJ-6) on Monday formally introduced the GAME Act, a law that would repeal the Professional Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) and allow states to legalize sports betting. In May, Pallone introduced a discussion draft of the bill and discussed its contents with stakeholders and sports leagues, including NBA officials. (You can read the full text of the bill here, which appears identical to its original form in May, and read a summary of its contents here.)
Pallone’s announcement came on the same day that the Supreme Court of the United States heard oral argument in Christie v NCAA, in which New Jersey is fighting the major U.S. sports leagues over PASPA’s constitutionality.
“Today’s argument before the Supreme Court showed there is a serious question as to whether PASPA violates the Constitution and whether New Jersey even violated PASPA in the first place,” Pallone wrote. “It is clear to me that PASPA is unconstitutional. I am hopeful that the Supreme Court will decide in New Jersey’s favor, and the GAME Act provide the necessary legal framework for states to move forward.”
The GAME Act (Gaming Accountability and Modernization Enhancement Act of 2017) Would Give States the Right to Choose to Implement Sports Betting
Based on most if not all accounts after oral argument, ours included, the Supreme Court Justices is leaning against PASPA and in favor of New Jersey, with most Justices appearing to view the law as unconstitutionally “commandeering” states. Although it is notoriously perilous to read into Justices’ questioning at argument.
“The truth is that Americans are already betting up to $400 billion a year on sporting events,” Pallone said in his announcement, “but it’s mostly taking place illegally and without consumer protections. It is time to update our laws and bring sports betting out of the shadows. The GAME Act will modernize sports betting regulations and ensure fairness while maintaining transparency and consumer protections.”
I’m hopeful that #SCOTUS will decide in NJ’s favor on sports betting. Americans are betting up to $400 bill a year on sporting events, but it’s mostly taking place illegally,without consumer protections. It’s time to update our laws & bring sports betting out of the shadows. pic.twitter.com/F21KmoJ3BF
— Rep. Frank Pallone (@FrankPallone) December 4, 2017
The GAME Act would require states choosing to license and regulate sports betting operations to meet certain consumer protection requirements.
In October, fellow New Jersey Representatives Frank LoBiondo (NJ-2) and Donald Norcross (NJ-1) collected signatures for a letter pressing the House Judiciary Committee to hold hearings on PASPA and on sports wagering.
But This Is Far From Just a New Jersey Matter
Also on Monday, Nevada Representative Dina Titus (NV-1) called on Chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, Greg Walden (OR-2), as well as Pallone to hold hearings and act on sports wagering (full letter here).
It is evident that this issue will be coming to Congress, and we must be ready to move quickly to ensure we protect consumers while excluding bad actors from participating in the marketplace. Members of Congress need to be prepared should action at the Supreme Court open the door for sports betting in their home state or warrant federal legislation. Accordingly, I respectfully request that the Energy and Commerce Committee hold a hearing on the future of sports betting in the United States.
As the lone state currently able to offer single-game sports wagering, and for a long time, Nevada companies have a wealth of experience with regulation and operations. As such, Nevada is poised offer a lot of consulting services and support for other states that may enter the market. With respect to their ability to speak on the subject, Titus writes:
Nevada, the only state with full-scale sports wagering, is home to more than 40 highly regulated publicly traded gaming companies. My district comprises the world famous Las Vegas Strip, numerous gaming establishments, including sports books, and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) International Center for Gaming Regulation, a first-of-its-kind resource for research and programs to aid gaming regulators and emerging jurisdictions around the world. Inviting gaming regulation experts from these organizations to testify would make this a worthwhile and informative event and help address members’ concerns.
And previously, in September, Georgia Representative Doug Collins told ESPN’s David Purdum that he felt Congress needed to examine PASPA.
The Supreme Court will issue a decision on Christie v. NCAA within months, but the responsibility to write legislation belongs to Congress alone. Historically, when we’ve failed to legislate, the Supreme Court has been all too happy to fill the void. So, legislators have a window to address the issues surrounding PASPA, and, since the House Judiciary Committee has jurisdiction over this particular law, I look forward to reviewing it with the Chairman and our colleagues there.
In the meantime, a growing number of states, blue and red, are contemplating legislation in the event that PASPA is repealed, federal law changes, or states otherwise become permitted to license and regulate sports betting.