AGA Announces 2017 Lobbying Push to Legalize Sports Betting on Federal Level

As states continue to embrace sports-related gambling contests like daily fantasy sports (DFS), the American Gaming Association (AGA) is preparing to pursue full-scale federal legalization of sports betting in 2017.

Currently, only four states (Nevada, Oregon, Delaware and Montana) in the U.S. are permitted to offer some version of wagering on sports contests, under the provisions of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992.

While the nearly national prohibition on sports betting has essentially been accepted as the law of the land for more than two decades since the passage of PASPA, a combination of shifting industrywide conditions has prompted jurisdictions like New Jersey to consider state-level legalization.

With the DFS industry garnering widespread acceptance by American players – and even Attorneys General in states like New York which previously banned the game – the AGA recently announced its intention to pursue full federal legalization of traditional sports betting.

During a June 30 conference with media members, AGA representatives signaled that a comprehensive lobbying effort directed at Congress could begin as soon as early 2017.

One major motivating factor behind the AGA’s renewed commitment to federal abolishment of PASPA occurred last month, when the National Hockey League (NHL) broke with long-standing tradition to award an expansion franchise to the gambling mecca of Las Vegas. In doing so, the NHL became the first major professional sports organization to base a team in Las Vegas – where the prevalence of legalized sports betting previously served as a deterrent.

In response to the NHL’s sudden embrace of Las Vegas, and the league’s willingness to gamble on a gambling town, a pair of prominent stakeholders threw their collective support behind the AGA.

On June 29, House Resolution 619 was passed by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, officially requesting that Congress remove the federal sports betting ban. The resolution was passed on a 140 to 59 vote, and its sponsor, Representative Rob Matzie, released a statement outlining his reasoning:

“Just last week, the National Hockey League announced the awarding of a franchise to the City of Las Vegas. This shows just how drastically public opinion and policy has shifted over time and should deliver the killing blow to the notion that professional athletics cannot coexist with legal sports wagering.”

Pennsylvania’s resolution came on the heels of another passed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors – a nonpartisan organization consisting of municipal leaders from cities of 30,000 residents or more – which also called for Congress to lift the sports betting prohibition.

That resolution highlighted the thriving market for illegal, unregulated, and untaxed sports betting which currently exists throughout America:

“(We) believe it’s time for a new approach to sports betting in the United States that could include strict regulation, rigorous consumer protections, taxation of revenues to benefit local communities, and robust tools and resources for law enforcement to root out illegal sports betting and uphold the integrity of games.”

According to the AGA – which is actively collaborating with Pennsylvania lawmakers and the U.S. Conference of Mayors ahead of 2017’s lobbying push – illicit sports betting totaled $149 billion in 2015. By comparison, only $4.2 billion was wagered legally within Nevada’s legal sports betting marketplace.