New federal gambling bill could repeal law against betting on sports for some Americans

A bill introduced to the United States House of Representatives’ Commerce and Energy Committee on Thursday could remove federal barriers to legalized sports betting in parts of the United States.

Sports betting in parts of the United States could soon come with no legal consequences as far as the federal government is concerned, if the bill introduced by New Jersey Representative Frank Pallone (D-sixth district) becomes law.

The bill, which is described as conversational and does not yet have a number attached to it, is provisionally called the Gaming Accountability and Modernization Enhancement Act. In the discussion draft phase, the committee is actively looking for parties who may be impacted to weigh in on the text of the draft.

That includes a wide range of companies, groups and individuals, so this part of the process could be lengthy.

The first thing that the average sports fan who wants to gamble on sports should take note of is that this bill, in its current version at least, does not supersede state laws on sports betting. Instead, it defers to them. That means fans who live in states which have laws about gambling on sports, nothing would change. All this bill would do in that regard is remove federal penalties for sports betting.

Outside of that, the bill also provides a framework for allowing the Federal Trade Commission to regulate the industry. The FTC would be responsible for setting up federal standards on things like consumer protections, which is likely to be the foremost concern for both agencies who treat people with gambling addictions and professional sport entertainment corporations like MLB, the NBA, the NFL and NHL along with the NCAA.

It’s those interests which could be the biggest impediments to the progression of this legislation. The Big Four leagues and the NCAA were the plaintiffs in the case that has barred the state of New Jersey from legalizing sports betting. A federal bill repealing PASPA (the current federal legislation against gambling on sports) might prompt a similar response from those entities. It’s unclear whether or to what extent the committee will invite them to be part of the draft discussion, but some communication on this front can be expected. The passage of this bill into law could have significant impacts on the professional sport entertainment industry.

The final thing that fans should note in this bill is that fantasy sports are included in the language, which would theoretically make it easier for states to legalize DFS games right along with sports betting. On both issues, state governments could simply defer to the new federal standard and pass repeals to any current legislation making either sports betting or DFS illegal within the state’s borders.

While the possibilities look tantalizing for those in the gambling industry and fans who wish to take part in betting, the process could be a slow one, and the passage of this bill in some form into law wouldn’t necessarily mean that the status quo has dramatically changed. Additionally, legal challenges to the bill could directly follow its enactment and delay its implementation indefinitely. With all that being understood, there is cause for fans to take notice.