Calls for Return of Sports Betting Ban

The Capitol and US flag

In May 2018, the Supreme Court decided to overturn the ban on sports betting in the United States. This decision was met with open arms from many different people and groups. However, the likes of the major sports leagues were not happy with the decision. Utah Senator Orrin Hatch was also displeased and he is now pushing for the reintroduction of a sports betting ban.

Sports betting legalization so far

Since the Supreme Court decided to overturn the federal ban on sports betting, many states have been putting themselves in the position to legalize it in their own states.

The likes of Delaware, New Jersey and West Virginia have already started to offer sports wagering after quickly passing relevant bills. Others such as Pennsylvania and Rhode Island are hot on their heels.

The major sports organizations in the country, such as the NBA, NHL, MLB, NFL and NCAA, opposed the overturning of this ban on every level and they have lobbied individual states on the matter. However, they had no luck in this regard.

The MLB and NBA have been pushing for the introduction of so-called integrity fees since the ban was overturned, but no state has yet to include a provision for these fees in their final sports betting bills.

These fees would be a percentage of all sports wagers on a given event under the league’s jurisdiction, giving them a slice of the revenue. They believe that sports betting operators are taking advantage of their intellectual property without adequately compensating the leagues.

For the most part, however, since the Supreme Court decision, parties have gotten on with matters and tried to adapt to these changes, rather than fight the decision.

Senator Orrin Hatch

There are a few exceptions, with a number of individuals and groups still pushing hard against the Supreme Court decision. The Utah senator Orrin Hatch played a key part in the introduction of the 1992 federal ban on sports betting and he is now calling for a reintroduction of this ban.

He outlined his plans during a meeting of the Senate. He is currently the longest-serving member of the upper chamber in Congress and he did admit that a nationwide ban was probably not feasible in the current climate.

Speaking in Congress, he said: ”We can’t put the genie back in the bottle,” and that “Prohibition is no longer a possibility or a prudent path forward.”

He outlined how he does not have an issue with individual states deciding on the legalization of sports betting in their own jurisdictions, but he has called for more extensive standards to be implemented to protect the integrity of sports.

He is calling for more stringent standard requirements on those people who are allowed to make bets. He has, as yet, not gone into detail as to what these minimum standards may be.

Hatch talked about this issue for 12 minutes and he referenced different situations over the years in which gambling pitfalls could be highlighted. He referred to former NBA referees being involved in illegal match-fixing, as well as the 1919 World Series scandal involving the players of the White Sox. He tried to underline how sporting events can now be seriously compromised.

What of integrity fees?

Of course, the illegal sports betting industry in the US has traditionally been massive, so the facility has always been in place for officials and players to place these wagers and fix games if they had the desire. With the federal ban being lifted, this will allow the legal sports betting avenues to be properly monitored for any such suspicious betting activity.

The teams and leagues themselves also will have stringent monitoring processes in place to tackle this very concern.

There was no mention of integrity fees during Hatch’s speech. A widespread opinion among lawmakers is that there is no need for such fees to be introduced.

A lot of lawmakers will also have one eye on the November elections and may not want to cause a stir in advance of the vote.

This will be Senator Hatch’s last term in office as he has decided that after more than four decades of service, he will not be seeking re-election.  He is the leading light on this issue and once he leaves office in January 2019, there may not be anyone willing to take up the gauntlet that he has left behind if no progress has been made on this issue in the interim period.

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