Federal Sports Bill’s Resurgence Forward Progress For Leagues’ Agenda

Written By Bart Shirley on December 20, 2018 - Last Updated on December 6, 2023
Federal Sports Betting Bill League Friendly

There’s a new bill for federal sports betting regulation. It’s called the Sports Wagering Market Integrity Act of 2018. The bill arguably lays bare the loyalties of various stakeholders in the nascent industry. Now, the major sports leagues’ reactions to the bill may reveal where gaming companies stand with their new sports betting partners.

The bill itself establishes a federal framework for sports betting oversight. In practice, the bill calls for states to ask the federal government for permission to offer sports betting.

The SWMIA, as it has been called, also mandates the use of official data. The fact that one of its main sponsors, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), was also one of the principal authors of Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) explains much about the bill’s purpose.

However, the leagues’ reaction to the bill has been rather telling so far.

The leagues’ 180 on sports betting always seemed odd

Since the demise of PASPA, gaming companies have formed strategic partnerships with various stakeholders at a breakneck pace. One of the more surprising couplings has been the unions of gaming companies and the major sports leagues.

Up until PASPA’s dismissal, the four major sports leagues maintained a solid opposition to the notion of sports betting. One bang of Chief Justice Roberts‘s gavel later, the leagues began letting companies like MGM Resorts and Caesars Entertainment into their offices without calling security.

The complete turnaround in opinion seemed abrupt but acceptable. After all, sports betting is forecast to generate billions of dollars in additional revenue for the leagues, so a sudden realization of its potential made sense.

However, the leagues’ reactions to the bill may show that they are still hoping for more control. Soon after the bill’s debut, the MLB, the NFL, and the deal-less NCAA indicated their support.

In the interest of full disclosure, there have been no such releases from the NBA or the NHL yet.

The leagues’ partners might want to give them a call

The introduction of the bill itself says more about its authors than about its legislative need. In a rather eloquent turn of phrase, American Gaming Association senior vice president of public affairs Sara Slane called the new act “the epitome of a solution in search of a problem.”

So far, there have been no reports or suspicions of failures at the state regulatory level. In fact, news broke this very same day that the New Jersey Department of Gaming Enforcement fined both Caesars and Golden Nugget for violating sports betting prohibitions on New Jersey college sports.

The bill itself is a dramatic usurpation of power from the states. It creates unnecessary regulatory hurdles for the gaming industry.

However, the statement from MLB emphasizes the need for “a set of consistent, nationwide integrity standards.”

The NFL says the bill “would create vital statutory and regulatory standards for legalized sports betting.”

A company like MGM could potentially be at cross purposes with its new friends. Certainly, statements like the ones made public should warrant a discussion or two.

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Bart Shirley

Bart Shirley is the managing editor of evergreen content for PlayUSA. He’s been writing and reporting on the gambling industry since 2013. Prior to working for PlayUSA, Shirley was a feature writer for QuadJacks, a site covering issues in poker. He also writes for BonusCodePoker, a poker satire site that lampoons the lighter side of card games. Shirley is a graduate of the MBA program at Texas Christian University’s Neeley School of Business and has a degree in English from Texas A&M University. He grew up in Houston, TX, and lives in Katy, just west of Houston. Shirley is also a former high school teacher. He is married, has one daughter, and practices Brazilian jiu jitsu in his spare time.

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