US Reps. LoBiondo, Pallone Introduce PASPA-Weakening Measures

Two of the US Congress’s Representatives from New Jersey, Frank LoBiondo and Frank Pallone, have introduced separate measures intended to curtail the nearly US-wide ban on sports betting dictated by the quarter-century-old Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA).

Both bills were introduced yesterday in the House of Representatives but only received their official Congressional nomenclature early today.

LoBiondo’s bill, designated H.R. 783, would create a four-year window as an amendment to PASPA under which each US state could reconsider its initial option to not enact sports-betting legalization measures.  Each US state had that option for one year back in 1991 and 1992, when PASPA was first enacted.  Nevada had previously offered such single-event wagering and chose to retain that activity, though at that time, no other states followed suit.  Since then, New Jersey has reconsidered the issue, and its citizens approved such wagering in 2011, but the state’s efforts have to date remained blocked by PASPA’s preemptive ban.


US Congressman Frank Pallone

Pallone’s bill, just designated as H.R. 784, takes a different approach.  The Pallone bill would create a direct exemption for New Jersey under the existing PASPA codes.  Such a bill, if ever enacted, would render moot the ongoing legal between New Jersey and the US’s major sports associations, which have used PASPA as a shield to bludgeon the state’s attempts at regulation.  That battle may soon be headed to the US Supreme Court, where the state will continue to argue that PASPA itself is an unconstitutional infringement on states’ rights to determine their own choices in gambling-related matters.

Both bills, however, are reintroductions of earlier, nearly identical bills.  LoBiondo submitted H.R. 416 back in early 2015.  That bill had an identical purpose to this session’s H.R. 783, differing only in the effective dates of the legislation.  Pallone’s bill was also first submitted in early 2015, known then as H.R. 457.

Both of those 2015 bills died an early procedural death, being assigned to the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations, and expiring there without a vote.  A similar fate is likely this time around, although increased anti-PASPA sentiment across the US gives the bills’ still-a-longshot chances a slight boost over two years ago.

LoBiondo and Pallone have repeated one other strategem from their initial bills’ submission two years ago.  Both bills were submitted within the run-up to the Super Bowl, the single largest wagering event in the US.  The idea behind it: highlighting the fact that the vast majority of the money wagered on the Super Bowl — about 97%, according to the American Gaming Association — is wagered illegally.  So much for PASPA’s effectiveness.

Both LoBiondo and Pallone issued brief statements regarding the introduction of their respective bills.  From LoBiondo:

“Each year competition from neighboring states and the proliferation of off-the-books betting grows, leaving Atlantic City’s gaming operations at a disadvantage. I strongly believe that sports-betting can help give our famed resort town a hand up, providing yet another unique option for patrons in addition to the quality entertainment, dining, shopping and beaches. I’m pleased Congressman Pallone, our casinos, local elected officials and an overwhelming majority of New Jersey residents agree. Over the years we have made progress on bringing sports-betting to our state and I hope that a bipartisan coalition in Congress can come together in support of legalizing and regulating sports-betting.”

And from Pallone:

“Sports-betting is already happening across our state and across the country, but instead of being appropriately overseen and raising needed revenue for our casinos, racetracks, businesses, and the state, these bets are placed through illegal enterprises,” said Congressman Pallone. “It is time to bring this activity out of the shadows. I am pleased to join Congressman LoBiondo in reintroducing these commonsense bills that would level the playing field and give New Jersey’s citizens the opportunity to share in the profits from sports betting.”


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