Federal Bills Would Open Sports Gambling

Congress also expected to revisit Internet poker in 2013.

Legislation continues to be considered at the federal level that would allow sports gambling and federal legislators also are expected to revisit Internet poker in 2013.

According to the American Horse Council, two bills have been introduced in Congress to ease the federal ban on betting on professional and amateur sports. Federal legislators also are expected to again consider legalizing online poker, according to the AHC.

One sports gambling 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 in-state sports betting.

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.

According to the AHC, 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 states to offer sports betting.

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.

LoBiondo's bill, the Sports Gaming Opportunity Act of 2013 (H.R. 625), would open up a four-year window, from Jan. 1, 2013 to Jan.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 also was exempted from the prohibitions on sports betting. These new bills would not impact that exemption.

Both bills were referred to the House Judiciary Committee.

Meanwhile, American Gaming Association chief executive officer Frank Fahrenkopf told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that he expects Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) to introduce legislation that would allow Internet poker.

Currently horse racing is one of the few legal forms of Internet gambling in the U.S. Major advance-deposit wagering players like Churchill Downs Inc. and Betfair have Internet poker games ready to launch. While Internet poker would add competition, it could provide an avenue to new players for horse racing.