Romney-Schumer Gambling Plan A Bad Idea Destined to Fail

Romney-Schumer Gambling Plan A Bad Idea Destined to Fail

Republican Sen. Mitt Romney and Democratic Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer are reportedly collaborating on a bill to establish a federal framework for legal sports betting.

Whether this project, which was first reported by Gambling Compliance and attributed to unnamed sources, yields a set of recommendations or an actual bill remains speculative.

That’s irrelevant. It’s a misguided idea and Romney and Schumer should move on to other things.

That such a bill would stand little chance to pass is only part of the reason.

Maybe this is the continuation of some tradition begun last year by Schumer and now-retired Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch. The Sports Wagering Market Integrity Act that Hatch and Schumer introduced in December expired with the end of the session, taking with it Schumer’s calls for sportsbook operators being federally mandated to use official data from professional sports leagues.

Schumer said at the time that bill would be launching point for the next attempt.

The Schumer-Romney version, if it replicates the official data requirement, would not be the first feckless result of cynical intent produced in Washington, D.C. It would just be the latest. And the timing of it would be ridiculous, as the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL have begun winning their long-game campaign of coercing sportsbooks into buying their data without legal requirement.

Romney and Schumer Have Other Motivations?

Romney’s motivation can be gleaned from his complicated political and moral background. As a member of a Mormon church that officially opposes gambling, he could solidify his bona fides within Utah. This would not erase his record of having favored the expansion of gaming early in his tenure as governor of Massachusetts.

But he could insist that he has continued to evolve, having also opposed online gaming expansion late in his term while assessing the conservative early presidential primary states of Iowa – which now has legal sports betting – and South Carolina.

This might even absolve him for that $10,000 bet he offered former Texas Governor Rick Perry.

Schumer has equally self-serving motivations. All four major professional leagues are based in his home state of New York, making it no surprise he advocates for their enrichment like a Midwestern Congressman shilling for soybean subsidies.

Leagues Already Getting What Bill Could Mandate

It made sense that sports leagues favored national legislation to mandate the purchase of what they consider – but courts have refused to rule as – their intellectual property, when the marketplace wasn’t buying it.

Now it is. It’s therefore absurd, with official data deals between operators and leagues being announced or enhanced weekly, to apply a governmental throttle on the free market.

Executives from gaming interests have expressed a preference for a singular national law regulating sports betting, DraftKings CEO Jason Robins among them. The presumed commonality with the leagues in this regard was the streamlining of lobbying from a huge collection of state houses to Capitol Hill.

Granted, the process of enacting sports betting legislation has been sloppy in the 21 states and jurisdictions that have managed to do so. A set of standards or guard rails to help those still attempting to join that group could be helpful. But states already with legal sports betting underway and doing quite well – that means you, New Jersey – are unlikely to accept the notion of interference very well.

The first step toward the eventual repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act began with a states-right argument by the state of New Jersey in Christie vs. The NCAA.

The previous Schumer bill established “a general prohibition on sports wagering, but permits a state to submit an application to the Department of Justice requesting approval to administer a state sports wagering program, subject to specified minimum standards.”

American Gaming Association Does Not Approve

This isn’t to say that the bill, which the American Gaming Association deemed the “epitome of a solution in search of a problem" didn’t have some merit. The Wire Act would have been amended to allow transactions between states where gambling is legal, and created a means of legally targeting offshore sportsbooks.

While there is work to be done with these matters, a national bill is less necessary than it was just nine months ago. Some states figured legal sports betting out. Other states continue to figure it out, albeit slowly. Their motivations are the only ones that should matter.

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