By Lesley Kennedy
Washington, D.C.—Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 6-3 decision in Murphy v. NCAA, there’s a lot at stake for state legislatures when it comes to sports betting.
Eight states are already operating some form of legal sports betting since the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) was found unconstitutional in May, with 21 states introducing legislation on the topic.
At a hearing during NCSL’s annual Capitol Forum, a panel of experts offered their takes on the issue, ranging from legal and ethical concerns to taxing and regulations to protection of athletes and sports leagues, as well as consumers.
Christopher Cylke, with the D.C.-based American Gaming Association, says nearly 60 percent of Americans were in favor of eliminating PASPA, with nearly two-thirds believing legal, regulated sports betting would benefit their communities. The AGA expects more than a dozen states to debate sports wagering in 2019.
“If implemented correctly, legal sports betting can support jobs and generate tax revenue, while making the vast illegal market unattractive to consumers,” Cylke says.
He says effective sports betting policy should focus on several core areas, including strong consumer protection, promoting responsible gaming and advertising, protecting sport integrity and ensuring robust regulations.
Joe Briggs, staff counsel for the NFL Players Association, says in the post-PASPA environment, he understands the importance of these conversations, “not only from a revenue generation standpoint but also from helping people understand how they can bring sports betting out of the dark alleys and into the light and participate in something they really want to do.”
Of primary concern to his organization: the personal safety of the people who are being bet on.
“If mobile betting becomes a thing that happens in stadiums,” he says, “and at the very last minute you place a bet on a kicker making a field goal and just a few minutes before that kicker stepped up to kick that ball there flashed on the big screen a video of his family that was sitting in the stands right next to you as you made that bet? If you lose that bet there may be a concern that you go over to those family members and say something.”
He also wants to make sure state legislators are thinking about a review of criminal codes to ensure proper protections are in place for the people associated with the game, including players, family members, referees and others, so they aren’t intimidated or influenced to change the outcomes of games. He also wants a safe harbor to report potentially illegal behavior to law enforcement and to the leagues.
Matt Kandrach, president of Consumer Action for a Strong Economy, a national free-market consumer group, says betting on sports is as old as the games themselves and that PASPA was a bad deal “for all but a select few with a protected market or criminal enterprise.”
“Legalized sports betting, when properly licensed and regulated, can contribute to the tax base, create jobs and provide accountability through industry standards that protect consumers from questionable and illegitimate operators,” he says.
But the key to making the post-PASPA environment a success, Kandrach notes, is limiting regulations on the gaming industry. “The avoidance of unnecessary and burdensome regulations will allow legalized gaming to thrive,” he says. “Weighing down gaming activity with heavy-handed taxes and regulations—before it gets a chance to take flight—will only push consumers back into the arms of illegitimate sports books.”
He recommends fair and low taxation, “light-touch regulation” that doesn't constrain market competition and rejecting “integrity fees that billionaire sports team owners will attempt to collect at the expense of consumers, solely for the privilege of making wagers. Integrity fees are a transparent cash grab, that bear no relation whatsoever to the actual integrity of sporting events.”
Lesley Kennedy is a web editor for NCSL.