Former presidential nominee Mitt Romney – who now represents Utah in the U.S. Senate after taking the torch from a retired Orrin Hatch back in January – is hoping to carry on his predecessor’s legacy in more ways than one.
Romney (R-UT) is reportedly collaborating with Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to reintroduce a federal sports betting bill originally floated last year by Hatch.
Back in December of 2018 – seven months after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal ban on sports betting outside of Nevada – the since retired Hatch introduced Senate Bill 3793. Officially known as the “Sports Wagering Market Integrity Act of 2018”, the bill was born in bipartisan fashion with Schumer listed as a cosponsor.
One month later, after the 84-year old Hatch left office as the longest serving Republican Senator in American history, Romney successfully ran for and won the open seat.
During his 42 years on Capitol Hill, Hatch authored the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992. That law implemented a ban on single-game sports wagering outside of the Silver State, which received the only exemption allowing for the operation of full-fledged sportsbooks.
The PASPA was repealed last year when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of New Jersey, ruling the federal prohibition to be an unconstitutional violation of the 10th Amendment’s protection of states’ rights.
Upon introducing SB-3793, Hatch offered the following rationale for establishing a federal regulatory framework over statewide sports betting industries:
“This bill is the first step toward ensuring that sports betting is done right in the states that choose to legalize it. Just as importantly, it provides protections for states that choose not to go down that path.
For the better part of this year, I have engaged with and learned from stakeholders on all sides of this issue – the gaming industry, professional and amateur sports leagues, consumer advocates, data providers, law enforcement, and many others.
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.”
Following the PASPA’s repeal, 12 states – Delaware, New Jersey, Mississippi, West Virginia, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Arkansas, New York, Iowa, Oregon, and Indiana – have joined Nevada in offering legal bet shops via brick and mortar and/or online / mobile venues.
Seven other states – Montana, Indiana, Tennessee, Illinois, New Hampshire, Maine, and North Carolina – along with Washington D.C., have passed sports betting laws of their own this year which are awaiting implementation.
Under the revival of Hatch’s bill reportedly in the works, Romney and Schumer would require states to apply with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) before initiating the legislative and regulatory process:
“To request approval to administer a state sports wagering program, a state shall submit an application to the Attorney General at such time, in such manner, and accompanied by such information as the Attorney General may require.”
Given that the current DOJ administration, headed by Attorney General William Barr, has been consistently opposed to legal online gambling in any form, requiring states to garner the agency’s approval for sports betting like would create a conflict of interest. In fact, it might undermine the sports betting legislation passed since the US Supreme Court struck down PASPA in May 2018.
The original Sports Wagering Market Integrity Act of 2018 also proposed the establishment of two new federal agencies – the National Sports Wagering Clearing House (NSWCH) and the National Sports Wagering Commission (NSWC) – to provide federal oversight.
The NSWCH would be “responsible for analyzing sports wagering data to identify patterns or trends of illegal activity,” while the NSWC would “expand the Sports Bribery Act to cover extortion and blackmail, prohibit sports wagers based on nonpublic information, and strengthen whistleblower protections,” among other duties.