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Pennsylvania Legislators Pass Bill Calling for Lift of Federal Sports Betting Prohibition

February 19, 2016

Pennsylvania legislators have passed a bill that will ask the US Congress to repeal the federal ban on sports gambling. Instead, the bill envisions an America where sports betting would be overseen by state governments.

The bill, HR 619, was passed by the Pennsylvania House Gaming Oversight Committee, by a vote of 23 to 1. It is sponsored by Pennsylvania House Representative Robert Matzie, a Democrat. This would make sports betting legal in all states; at the moment, only Nevada and Delaware are exempt from the law, and residents of Montana and Oregon have limited freedom to wager. In these states, betting on sports is licensed and regulated.

At present, sports betting is federally prohibited under the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. This law prohibits “(1) a governmental entity to sponsor, operate, advertise, promote, license, or authorize by law or compact, or (2) a person to sponsor, operate, advertise, or promote, pursuant to the law or compact of a governmental entity… a lottery, sweepstakes, or other betting, gambling, or wagering scheme based, directly or indirectly (through the use of geographical references or otherwise), on one or more competitive games in which amateur or professional athletes participate, or are intended to participate, or on one or more performances of such athletes in such games.”

But the 1992 Act is widely criticized for being ineffective prohibition. According to HR 619, “Even amid strong Federal laws banning sports betting in the United States, reports highlight that illegal sports betting is widespread and is considered the number one form of gambling among American residents…”

This echoes the national discussion about illegal sports betting--some figures put America’s aggregate annual illegal sports wagers between $325 and $400 billion. The American Gaming Association estimated that on Super Bowl 50 alone, Americans would bet near $4 billion outside of the control of sportsbooks, with a number estimated to be 3% of all Super Bowl bets taking place legally.

HR 619 calls attention to the insufficient enforcement of federal laws, and would empower casinos to handle America’s sports betting habits instead.

Related articles:
Do not Trust the American Gaming Association's $4.2 Billion Illegal Betting Estimate
Super Bowl 50 Sees "Prop Bets" Comprise 60% of Aggregate Betting Pool


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