In the wake of last month's house sub-committee hearing on federal legislation of sport betting in the US Scott Longley reports on the debate from G2E.
The moves made by the US Congress to re-impose a degree of control over sports betting in the wake of the striking down of PASPA got short shrift among panellists speaking on the first day of G2E in Las Vegas.
At the end of September the House sub-committee on crime, terrorism, homeland security and investigations held a hearing on sports betting where Republican representative James Sensenbrenner stated that if Congress were do “do nothing” it would be the “worst possible alternative.”
At the same time a separate move came from Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer from New York who joined up with Orrin Hatch, the Republican senior senator from Utah, to issue a call for Congress to seek oversight with regard to sports integrity.
Both moves have been vocally supported by the US sport leagues despite, as the American Gaming Association (AGA) pointed out, PASPA only “enabling a massive illegal sports betting market that recently exceeded $150bn dollars a year.”
Speaking on a panel at G2E in Las Vegas yesterday, Joe Asher, the chief executive of William Hill in the US, said such moves were unwelcome, particularly given the progress being made at state level to legislate for sports betting.
“I’m not a fan of additional congressional legislation, to put it mildly,” he told the audience. “Why do sports leagues want to submit themselves up to the whims of the Congress, especially given the ability of Congress to hold hearings? It’s something I don’t quite understand.”
The issue of Federal oversight with sports integrity has also become tied up at state level with that of potential data or integrity fees but Asher said he was sceptical of state legislatures moving to “divert money from tax payers and give it to the sports leagues and teams.”
George Rover, managing partner at Princeton Global Strategies and previously attorney general and deputy attorney general in New Jersey, said that Federal oversight “doesn’t really add up.”
“What you will see is the states will form something collaboratively to deal with integrity monitoring,” he said. “They have the same in Europe. That will put to rest the arguments.”
Sources yesterday pointed out that despite the public support from the leagues with regard to the Federal moves, there was no consensus between them on the issues being discussed.
It is notable that while Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the PGA Tour put out one statement, the National Football League (NFL) and the national Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) went with their own public comments.
“It should be remembered, they are competitors,” said one source on the sidelines at the conference. “A spectator at the basketball is one less fan at the hockey.”
The potential for further Federal moves on sports betting was also raised by another panel yesterday which looked into the tribal response to the post-PASPA sports-betting environment.
Aurene Martin, president at Spirit Rock Consulting, said that she “didn’t really see Federal legislation happening.”
Martin noted that the legislative calendar and next month’s midterms mitigated against the risk of Congress agreeing on any moves once the elections were over. “There’s nothing they can do to force a change, at least not in a lame duck (session),” she said.
She added, though, that if there was any evidence of states falling down on problem gambling or sports integrity, it would trigger Congress to take more of a stand.
Martin noted that the tribes had so far stayed on the out of the Federal debate but Steve Bodmer, general counsel of the Pechanga Band of Luseno Indians, did warn that the tribes should be prepared to argue their case over sports betting, particularly as it related to arguments about their various compacts and exclusivity agreements.
“If there is a federal level, how would the tribes feel about relegating some of their sovereign authority?” he asked.
Stephen M. Hart, partner at Lewis Roca, agreed. “What complicates it for Indian tribes is exclusivity,” he said. “It’s something the tribes hold dearly and it is very tough (when it comes to) sports betting.”
Looking specifically at California, Bodmer suggested that if sports-betting was to be considered then the issue of the compact with the state and the exclusivity granted to tribal gaming would likely have to be addressed.
“What makes this so difficult for tribal is the issue of what does exclusivity cover,” he said. “There is a discussion to be had about that. Is there no choice but to go forward given public opinion? In California, if you want to open sports-betting, tribes will have to be looked at.”