Bringing in a national referee?
As the fight over the integrity fees rages on in statehouses, the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the National Football League have been taking a different tack, calling on Congress to regulate sports betting.
A week after the Supreme Court's ruling, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell issued a statement, saying Congress should "enact core standards for states that choose to legalize sports betting" — which would, among other things, protect consumers and the leagues' "content and intellectual property."
In a statement, NCAA President Mark Emmert expressed his support for federal regulation of sports betting. "While we recognize the critical role of state governments, strong federal standards are necessary to safeguard the integrity of college sports and the athletes who play these games at all levels," he said.
The National Hockey League, meanwhile, prefers a set of uniform rules to apply nationwide, whether through congressional action or with a collective agreement among 50 states.
"We'd like consistency and we'd like not to have it vary state by state," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman told reporters last week. "Now, if all the states want to come together and do the same thing, that would be the equivalent of federal legislation."
In many ways, what the leagues are asking for has already been proposed: In December, U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., a Democrat from New Jersey, introduced the Gaming Accountability and Modernization Enhancement Act, which would allow states to legalize sports betting — so long as they put in place consumer protections, including a ban on underage betting and safeguards against gambling addiction.
While Pallone's bill — which doesn't include a provision for integrity fees — hasn't budged since its introduction, U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Republican from Utah and one of the original architects of the 1992 law on sports betting, has also announced his support for a federal framework to regulate sports betting.
"For the sake of the athletes, for the sake of the fans and for the sake of the game, Congress must act to protect the integrity of sports and guide states as they consider whether to embrace sports betting," Hatch wrote in a column in Sports Illustrated, vowing to introduce a bill that would put in place "minimum standards."
But some states are already pushing back. A day before Hatch's column was published, gaming regulators from Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan and Nevada issued a statement to urge Congress to stand down. They argued that "coordinated action among jurisdictions" — states and Native American tribes — is what's needed to root out corruption in sport betting.
The state regulators also slammed "the so-called 'integrity fee,'" arguing that it would only "increase the costs of legal sports betting, siphon much-needed tax revenues away from state coffers, and increase state regulatory burdens."
Marc Edelman, a law professor at the City University of New York's Baruch College, said the leagues could still get what they want out of Congress, owing to their longstanding presence on Capitol Hill. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, for example, the NFL alone has spent more than $6 million for its lobbying efforts since 2013, and its Gridiron PAC gave $1.2 million in campaign contributions during the 2016 election cycle.
"It was this lobbying effort that led to the creation of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in the first place," said Edelman, who specializes in the business of sports. "So it's still possible that the lobbyists will prevail on behalf of the leagues."
Daniel Wallach, a sports gaming law expert and attorney at Florida-based Becker & Poliakoff, agreed that the leagues know how to play better in the federal arena. "Could it happen this year? Highly unlikely," he said. "But sports betting checks a lot of the important boxes for lawmakers — it's a revenue generator, it's a tax generator, it's a job creator, it's what the people want — so there's very little countervailing pressure against a sports betting bill being pushed through Congress."
For his part, Monmouth Park's Drazin isn't waiting to find out what Congress is going to do. He's focused on getting the track's bar and the adjoining grandstand area — which can hold about 7,500 people — ready to take bets as soon as the state lets him.
What the new sports betting decision means for states and sports leagues
An Ohio legislator defied FirstEnergy lobbyists. Then a ‘dark money’ group helped sink her bid for Congress
Michigan lawmakers voted on bills even after admitting conflicts of interest