The House of Representatives Judiciary Committee convened today, September 27, to hold the long-awaiting hearing, “Post-PASPA: An Examination of Sports Betting in America”. Among the witnesses giving testimony were Sara Slane, senior VP of public affairs for the American Gaming Association (AGA); Becky Harris, chair of the Nevada Gaming Control Board and Jocelyn Moor, executive VP, communications and public affairs at the National Football League (NFL).

Written versions of the witness testimonies had been circulated prior to the hearing, each outlining their respective arguments relating to sports betting including federal oversight, integrity and online wagering.

In the NFL testimony, Moore stated: “Without continued federal guidance and oversight, we are very concerned that sports leagues and state governments alone will not be able to fully protect the integrity of sporting contests and guard against the harms Congress has long recognized as being associated with sports betting.”

She also presented a list of recommendations for federal legislation to consider including establishing key criteria for state regulatory entities; enforcing age limits on sports betting, a requirement for the use of official league data; precluding risky betting fixtures, prohibiting insider and high risk sports betting; and the inclusion of responsible gambling resources. While Moore stopped short of recommending overall federal oversight of sports betting, she advised that there should be federal policies in place to govern the activity.

Putting the case for the industry, and reinforcing the argument for state-by-state oversight, the AGA’s Slane said in the Q&A segment of the hearing: “I don’t think that there’s any panellist sitting here that would not agree this is a race against the illegal operators that are out there right now. They don’t pay taxes, they don’t care about consumers, they have no regulatory oversight or protections.

“We are in a highly regulated industry. We are licensed – we are privileged with that license. If we do anything wrong that license can be pulled by our gaming regulators. Sports betting is a low margin business, so in order for us to compete with the illegal market there have to be the policies in place that enable us to do that, offer competitive odds and drive legal traffic to our regulated sites.”

When pushed as to why bettors would eschew better odds in favor of going legal, she responded: “In surveying people that are participating in illegal activities, 70 per cent of them do want to move from the illegal market to the legal, regulated one. But we cannot, as legal regulated operators, be hamstrung. So we have to have those policies in place. Again, you can’t have over-burdensome tax rates. You can’t have an additional layer of oversight or regulation that then impugns us from competing with those illegal operators that are able to offer better paying odds.”