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Bills Introduced to Modify Federal Sports Betting Ban
Two bills have been introduced in Congress to ease the federal ban on betting on professional and amateur sports. One bill would amend the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act to allow all states a four-year window to pass sports betting. The second bill would allow New Jersey to offer sports betting in state.
New Jersey has been at the forefront of initiating sports betting. In 2011, New Jersey voters amended the state constitution to allow sports betting at casinos and racetracks. The state legislature then passed a law allowing sports betting; but the federal law still prohibited it. The state has filed a lawsuit in federal court arguing that the current federal ban is unconstitutional. The Department of Justice has responded arguing that the law is constitutional. A decision is expected in the near future. Any decision is likely to be appealed.
Meanwhile, Congressmen Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ) have introduced legislation in the House of Representatives to provide a path for New Jersey and possibly other state to offer sports betting.
Mr. Pallone’s bill, the New Jersey Betting and Equal Treatment Act of 2013 (H.R. 626), would amend the federal law to exclude New Jersey from the federal prohibitions and allow that state to offer sports betting, limited to New Jersey, if approved by the state legislature.
Mr. LoBiondo’s bill, the Sports Gaming Opportunity Act of 2013 (H.R. 625), would open up a four-year window, from January 1, 2013 to January 1, 2017, during which any state could legalize betting on professional and amateur sports. If a state did not act, the window would close and that state could not offer such wagering.
The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was enacted in 1992 and prohibited any state from initiating any new form of sports betting. Nevada, Delaware and Oregon were exempt since they offered forms of such wagering then. Pari-mutuel racing was exempted from the prohibitions on sports betting when the law was passed and still is. These new bills would not impact that exemption.
Both bills were referred to the House Judiciary Committee.