‘GAME’ on? Federal bill would legalize sports betting

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: May 27, 2017

A legislator from New Jersey, which remains to committed to its effort to legalize sports betting at racetracks and casinos, on May 25 released a “discussion draft”—a prelude to legislation—calling for legalization of sports betting and a repeal of the federal law that currently prohibits it in all but four states.

U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, whose district includes Oceanport, where Monmouth Park is located, released a draft of the Gaming Accountability and Modernization Act, or the GAME Act, which also would legalize online gambling. It defines gaming facilities as racetracks, casinos, or other facilities that host gaming activities, as well websites or other facilities “through which a bet or wager is initiated, received, or otherwise made whether transmitted by telephone, Internet, satellite, or other wire or wireless communication facility, services, or medium whether or not the transmissions cross state boundaries.”

New Jersey has been at the forefront of the battle over legalization of sports betting, which is banned under the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. The U.S. Solicitor General recently issued a brief recommending the U.S. Supreme Court not hear New Jersey’s latest appeal in a case that has dragged on for years; the high court is expected to decide whether to proceed by the end of June.

The New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, which leases Monmouth Park, has been active in the legal proceedings. Pro sports leagues have for the most part vehemently opposed legalization of sports betting.

“Despite the federal gaming laws in place today, Americans are betting up to $400 billion a year on sporting events alone,” Pallone said in a release. “It’s time to recognize that the laws are outdated, and the GAME Act will modernize them by increasing transparency, integrity, and consumer protections.”

The House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing last year in response to a request by Pallone to examine the relationship between fantasy sports and gambling. Pallone said he has since conducted “an extensive review of the federal gaming laws and the effects on the legal and illegal gambling markets,” and that he found “the current system is not working as intended, as illegal gambling and other forms of gambling that skirt federal laws are prevalent.”

The GAME Act would allow the states to decide whether they want to offer sports betting, which is currently offered in Delaware, Montana, Nevada and Oregon on varying levels. According to the University of Nevada Las Vegas, the “win” from sports betting in Nevada was about $219 million in 2016; the total amount bet on sports in the state from 1984 through last year was almost $77 billion.

The GAME Act notes it would have no effect on state law or tribal compacts related to gambling; the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act; the Illegal Gambling Business Act; and the Interstate Horseracing Act, which governs the transmission of pari-mutuel wagers across state lines and assigns rights to various parties, including horsemen’s associations.