While the race has been on for awhile to regulate sports betting at the state level, the pack broke into a sprint on May 14 when the US Supreme Court declared the federal law banning the practice unconstitutional when they ruled on Murphy v. NCAA. With the demise of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, sometimes referred to as PASPA or the Bradley Act, after one of the bill’s authors, there’s a flurry of market activity and headway being made in some states.
Paddy Power Betfair snapped up FanDuel, one of the top fantasy sports operators this week for an undisclosed price that includes equity from their US operations and a $158 million cash payment to fund the new operation and pay down about $76 million of FanDuel’s debt.
Stocks took a leap on the news as well, with Latest Casino Bonuses reporting William Hill experiencing a 10.5% increase in value and Paddy Power up 9.4% prior to the FanDuel announcement. GVC Holdings saw a modest 6% rise in stock prices while it looked like 888 Holdings was the one to get into early with a 14% improvement. 888 already operates an online casino in New Jersey, the state that was responsible for the case overturning the Bradley Act.
Some analysts are saying, not so fast, though. While the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of. 2006 (UIGEA) shouldn’t have any effect on sports betting operators, as the bill didn’t create any new laws, payment processors may have a hard time facilitating transactions due to guidance from the Federal Reserve suggesting Internet gambling businesses should be licensed as well as code card transactions as gambling. Where that gets sticky is due to The Interstate Wire Act of 1961, which appeals courts and the US Department of Justice have said relates only to sports betting.
In the absence of federal regulations, specifically allowing sports betting, each state will only be allowed to offer wagering within their own borders, as Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware already do with online casino sites. Strangely enough, after the DOJ’s 2011 opinion that, “interstate transmissions of wire communications that do not relate to a ‘sporting event or contest’ fall outside the reach of the Wire Act,” the only states to legalize online betting have done so with strict intrastate restrictions. Presumably, interstate casino gambling should be legal with only sports betting restricted to people inside the border of a regulated state.
The opinion, written by Assistant Attorney General Virginia Seitz in response to inquiries from the New York and Illinois lotteries about whether they could sell lottery tickets online inside their own states can be found here in PDF format.
In Washington, Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., introduced a bill late last year to replace PASPA. No hearings have been scheduled. Retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch R-Utah was quick to introduce legislation on the heals of the recent Supreme Court decision. Hatch was one of the original sponsors of PASPA, and used the word “integrity” in his statement on the bill, in what is seen by some as a dog whistle to the NCAA and other sports leagues that the legislation will include a gambling tax or “integrity fee” with one percent of each bet going directly to the leagues. The fee has not proved very popular with state lawmakers so they have taken their lobbying effort to the nation’s capital.
Stay tuned for more news and updates as some of the 20 states that already have legislation in the works and others that may introduce sports betting bills in the near future announce developments.