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Schumer and Hatch Bet That Sports Betting Ripe for Legislating

No real time left during this session, but foundation for later action is possibility

Senate Minority Leader. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., left, and Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, are laying down the foundation for future legislation on sports betting. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Senate Minority Leader. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., left, and Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, are laying down the foundation for future legislation on sports betting. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Before Senate Finance Chairman Orrin G. Hatch heads for retirement, he’s laying down one more legislative marker, with a powerful Democratic ally.

The Utah Republican teamed up with Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York on Wednesday to set out a framework for regulating sports betting in the United States, in the aftermath of the Supreme Court recently throwing out a federal law that had denied the ability of New Jersey to have legalized gambling on sporting events.

“As a lifelong sports fan I treasure the purity of the game, and after Murphy v. NCAA, I knew that Congress had an obligation to ensure that the integrity of the games we love was never compromised,” Schumer said in a statement. “That is why I believe the time is now to establish a strong national integrity standard for sports betting that will protect consumers and the games themselves from corruption. The bipartisan legislation that Senator Hatch and I have introduced, follows the principles laid out in the federal framework that I released in August and will serve as a solid foundation upon which we build the appropriate guardrails around the burgeoning sports betting industry.”

The bill’s supporters include the National Football League.

“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,” NFL Executive Vice President Jocelyn Moore said in a statement.

The bill would block wagering on amateur sports other than sanctioned collegiate events and the Olympics. It also would provide for the establishment of a clearinghouse and let states enter into interstate compacts for wagering across state lines.

Schumer and Hatch also suggest a variety of consumer protections and advertising disclosure requirements.

While the bill being introduced at the very end of a Congress will not go anywhere, it does set forth an option for the debate starting in 2019.

“I am pleased that the Minority Leader has joined me in introducing this legislation, confirming that while this may not be an easy issue, it is a bipartisan one,” Hatch said in a statement. “There is much work to be done, but I hope this bill will serve as a placeholder for the next Congress, should they decide to continue working to address these issues.”

The American Gaming Association came out against the Hatch-Schumer legislation on Wednesday, with Sara Slane, the senior vice president of public affairs calling it, “the epitome of a solution in search of a problem, representing an unprecedented and inappropriate expansion of federal involvement in the gaming industry, which is currently one of the most strictly regulated in the country.”

“Additional areas this bill seeks to address – including the mandatory use of official league data and the creation of a national sports wagering clearinghouse – can, and should, be decided by marketplace negotiations between private businesses and cooperative agreements among jurisdictions,” she said in a statement.

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