Congressional subcommittee to review sports betting landscape

Congress is ready to examine whether federal sports betting guidelines are needed as more states begin to open regulated sportsbooks.

On Thursday, a House Judiciary subcommittee scheduled a hearing titled "An Examination of Sports Betting in America" for Sept. 27, in Washington, D.C.

The Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigation will review the current U.S. landscape in the aftermath of a U.S. Supreme Court decision in May that struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 and opened a path for states to offer legal sports betting. Since the ruling, Delaware, Mississippi, New Jersey and West Virginia have joined Nevada in offering full-scale sports betting, and Pennsylvania and Rhode Island are also gearing up.

"My subcommittee will look at the implications of this SCOTUS ruling and talk about what it means for the integrity of sports as well as what sorts of improper or illicit activities could arise," said subcommittee chairman Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.). "Ultimately, we want to determine whether or not a basic federal framework is necessary to guide states' new gambling policies."

Next week's hearing was scheduled nearly a month after Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) released sports betting guidelines, with the support of some professional sports leagues.

"As legalized sports betting spreads across the states, there is a need for consistent, nationwide integrity standards to safeguard the sports millions of fans love," the NBA, PGA Tour and Major League Baseball said in a joint statement. "We strongly support the legislative framework outlined by Senator Schumer and we encourage Congress to adopt it."

Committee hearings are often postponed. Previously, the same House Judiciary subcommittee scheduled a hearing on sports betting for late June, but it was scrapped abruptly the morning after it was put on the official calendar amid the immigration firestorm over children being separated from their families.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said in late August that he was planning to introduce sports betting legislation "in weeks," but with Hatch prominently involved in the controversy over Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, no new bill has surfaced.

Another federal sports betting bill, titled the GAME Act and authored by New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone also has been put on hold, as first reported by industry trade publication GamblingCompliance and confirmed by ESPN.

Meanwhile, states are moving quickly to pass legislation and regulations for sports betting. On Tuesday, "The Sports Wagering Lottery Amendment Act of 2018" was introduced in the District of Columbia, aiming to legalize sports betting. More than a dozen additional states have introduced recent sports betting bills.

More than $152 million has been bet on sports at New Jersey sportsbooks since mid-June, when Monmouth Park race track and at the Borgata in Atlantic City began taking wagers.

The American Gaming Association estimates that Americans bet $150 billion on sports annually, the bulk of it in a black market made up of offshore sportsbooks and local bookmakers.

"Legal, regulated sports betting will enable increased transparency and enhance protections for consumers and bet and game integrity," American Gaming Association senior vice president Sara Slane said in a statement Thursday. "We look forward to discussing the U.S. gaming industry's core principles for legalized sports betting with the Judiciary Committee at next week's hearing."