Senator Orrin Hatch

Federal Sports Betting Bill from Orrin Hatch Deserves Some Side-Eye

The biggest gambling story of 2018 is probably the overturn of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA) which had previously banned sports betting in the United States except in four states that were grandfathered into the industry. (Nevada was the only one with single-event wagering.) That opened the door for states to legalize and regulate sports betting on their own, just as they do with casino gambling and lotteries. So far, eight states have sports books up and running, Arkansas has legalized it but nothing has launched yet, a couple states have partial laws in place, and a number of others have been discussing legislation. Retiring Senator Orrin Hatch (R – Utah) doesn’t like the idea of states handling all this themselves, though, and last week floated draft legislation that would transfer some power over sports betting to the federal government.

States Still Make Their Own Laws, But Federal Government is Big Brother

Senator Orrin Hatch

As might be implied by the term “draft,” this was not an official bill that has been filed, but rather just a first pass. ESPN got a hold of it and reports that while states would still ultimately be in charge of legalizing and regulating sports betting within their borders, they would have to have those laws and regulations approved by the U.S. Attorney General’s office.

Hatch’s bill would likely be looked at favorably by the sports leagues, as it “would force sportsbook operators to use official league data to grade wagers until at least 2023.” The leagues have been trying to find a way to monetize legal sports betting more than the indirect revenue boost that will come from increased viewership and interest in the sports; requiring sportsbooks to use official league data, which would probably come with fees, would be a boon to the leagues.

Another interesting aspect of the legislation is that it would create the National Sports Wagering Clearinghouse, which would analyze anonymous sports betting data in real time to seek out any irregularities which may indicate shenanigans. This is something that states and sports books can and will do themselves, so it’s not a bad idea, but it is debatable whether it is necessary to have the national government taking control.

Does Hatch Really Have the Best Intentions?

While I have historically liked the idea of national legalization and regulation of online poker instead of the piecemeal, state-by-state situation we have now, I have reason to be skeptical of Orrin Hatch and his ideas for federal oversight of sports betting. Remember, Hatch was one of the architects of PASPA. He does not like sports betting, especially coming from a state which has no gambling whatsoever. He is not working on a bill because he thinks it is now time to grow a sports betting industry. He wants the federal government to control it as much as possible. I mean, hell, he doesn’t even understand how it works, as is evidenced in a statement he made in May:

The problems posed by sports betting are much the same as they were 25 years ago. But the rapid rise of the Internet means that sports betting across state lines is now just a click away. We cannot allow this practice to proliferate amid uneven enforcement and a patchwork race to the regulatory bottom. At stake here is the very integrity of sports. That’s why I plan to introduce legislation in the coming weeks to help protect honesty and principle in the athletic arena. I invite stakeholders and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join me in addressing this important issue.

I always find it funny when members of the Republican party, the party which says it wants smaller central government and fewer regulations, try to take control of the things they don’t like.

ESPN reports that Hatch’s legislation would amend the Wire Act of 1961 and the Sports Bribery Act of 1964. The changes seem reasonable – the Wire Act change would “allow sportsbook operators to lay off bets to other states through compacts” – but boy, with the way the Wire Act was weaponized against online poker, this sure makes me nervous.

Hatch Has Shown His Ass

And it’s not like I can trust the judgment of Orrin Hatch. Just sticking to his most recent history before he heads for retirement, his behavior with regards to the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court hearings was just gross. He showed zero concern about anyone except his political party, choosing not to believe Dr. Ford’s testimony even when most people felt she was telling the truth, and then saying that even if she was telling the truth, it shouldn’t matter. He said that what Kavanaugh said and how he said it during his hearing makes no difference, when most reasonable people felt it did. And when female protestors confronted him, he patronizingly waved them off and told them to “grow up.”

Orrin Hatch has put party over country and, hell, over logic and decency, ending his career as a Senator standing for Donald Trump. Any reasonable person has seen how embarrassing and corrupt the Trump presidency has been, yet as evidence against Trump’s associates mounts (and this is just evidence the public knows about), some of it pointing right at Trump himself, Hatch still clings to his Man. Just check out these tweets from Monday:

“… you can make anything a crime under the current laws….” Oh, fuck off.

This is all to say that as much as some of what Hatch is proposing in his sports betting bill may make some sense, I would not trust him at all. He is a long-time opponent of sports betting, is one of the people who got it banned in the first place, and his opinions and judgment have been shown to be completely out of bounds, especially of late. Take everything he says with a grain of salt.


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