PA Lawmaker Working On Bill To Legalize Sports Betting

J.R. Duren January 30, 2017

Pennsylvania isn’t ready to challenge the federal ban on sports-gambling regulation, but it’s more than happy to legalize the practice if the ban is lifted.

This week, it was reported that Pennsylvania State Rep. Robert Matzie circulated a “house co-sponsorship memorandum” calling for a bill that would legalize the regulation of single-game sports betting. The bill, of course, has no clout since the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) bans the creation of sports-betting regulation in any state not named Nevada, Montana, Oregon, or Delaware.

However, the hope is that a few legislative dominoes will fall and, when they do, the state will be ready to legalize and regulate sports betting.

Pennsylvania Watching New Jersey’s Federal Court Case

During the past few months, we’ve been following New Jersey’s third attempt to challenge PASPA. Whereas the first two attempts failed in district court and were upheld by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, the new legal challenge is happening before the Supreme Court of the United States.

Most industry experts assumed the third time wouldn’t be the charm for New Jersey, but earlier this month, the Supreme Court surprised many by requesting outside expertise from the Solicitor General. This move, known as a Call for the Views of the Solicitor General, was an indication New Jersey’s luck might be changing.

By asking for a CVSG, the Supreme Court wants to know the government’s stance on the matter via the opinion of the Solicitor General. It is a well-known fact that President Donald Trump was heavily involved in the casino business for decades, and that he’s taken a friendly stance toward sports betting on several occasions.

Hopeful proponents of a PASPA repeal say it stands to reason that the government’s interest lies where the President’s interest lies: in favor of allowing states to regulate sports betting.

Matzie’s argument for a PA sports betting bill

Matzie’s memorandum indicated he would introduce legislation that would allow the state to legalize sports betting “through its licensed facilities,” which would be Pennsylvania casinos and race tracks like Parx and Rivers casinos.

His main argument for regulation is that sports betting is “an estimated $400 billion per year” industry, but only $40 billion of it is happening legally. He poses a legitimate question voiced by politicians across Pennsylvania and New Jersey: Why can’t we regulate an industry that already exists?

Matzie indicated his bill will position Pennsylvania to take full advantage of a PASPA repeal:

“Our Commonwealth is uniquely positioned to oversee sports betting in all its forms, and should be ready to act should the federal ban be lifted. As evidenced by yet another record setting year of gaming revenues, our licensed facilities are thriving. Legalizing sports betting will simply enable Pennsylvania to regulate a multi-million dollar industry that already exists.”

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