The specter of federal intervention into the emerging US sports betting market refuses to go away with the news this week of a new draft bill doing the rounds, this time from the office of Senator Orrin Hatch. The document sets out measures that would place power of approval and veto of sports wagering within federal hands, a development that would be hardly welcomed by stakeholders and operators.

While the full details of the draft bill have yet to be fully assessed, the American Gaming Association was quick out of the blocks to confirm it was in the process of reviewing the proposed legislation.

Chris Cylke, AGA’s vice president of government relations, told SBC Americas: “Since the Supreme Court’s ruling in May, the American Gaming Association has consistently maintained that federal legislation regarding sports betting is not necessary. That underlying position remains unchanged. At the same time, we remain committed to maintaining an open and constructive dialogue with policymakers considering sports betting legislation at any level of government.”

Hatch’s bill is a mixed bag when viewed cursorily. There is more than a suggestion that federal powers would hold sway over states’ rights to offer sports betting, with the imposition of a minimum set of standards for state regulations. More positively, it contains recommendations for clarification of the Wire Act which could facilitate a degree of flexibility for interstate exchange of sports betting information.

The big deal breaker for most observers, however, is that ultimately states will have to gain federal approval via the Department of Justice to introduce legalized sports betting. Operators will also be required to use only official data from a sports organization or an officially authorized provider.  

SBCA Takeaway:

It ought to be noted that Hatch’s draft bill is just that…a draft bill. Also there is the very obvious possibility that this could well be another lame attempt to close the stable door after the horse has bolted. With legal sports wagers being placed in eight states and more to follow, it’s hard to see how such a bill could be applied evenly and equitably. For example, there appears to be no mention of retrospective measures for those states that have gone legal. The likely effect of Hatch’s recommendations is that it sparks a flurry of activity on the part of state legislators who may have been hanging back on introducing regulated sports wagering. Procrastination could well make way for progress as states legislate ahead of any proposed federal oversight.