Hatch Twists Facts On Sports Betting In Effort To Keep Federal Control

Written By Martin Derbyshire on May 25, 2018Last Updated on December 20, 2021
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Apparently United States Senator Orrin Hatch doesn’t think much of the people he represents.

In an op-ed posted on the Sports Illustrated website this week, the senior US Senator for Utah basically says without federal controls on sports gambling, Americans are bound to start fixing games, bribing players and referees, and attacking the integrity of sports in this country from every angle.

He even cites examples including the fixing of the 1919 World Series, Pete Rose’s expulsion from baseball and the point-shaving scandal at Boston College as proof they’ve done it before and will likely do it again.

It’s a rather grim view of the many millions in this country who watch and bet on sports regularly. Plus, it ultimately ignores several facts about sports gambling in the US altogether.

Hatch’s issue is with last week’s Supreme Court decision declaring the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) unconstitutional. Hatch actually wrote PASPA almost 25 years ago. A law he says was an effort to insulate sports from the corrupting influences of gambling.

The Supreme Court decision ultimately said it was up to states to decide if they want sports betting or not. A decision that opens the door for all 50 to launch legal sports betting inside their borders. And, one Hatch says upends decades of an established law that has served to protect the integrity of sports.

Will legal sports betting create corruption?

In fact, with PASPA gone and legal sports gambling set to spread across the nation, Hatch says the likelihood that players will be exposed to bribes, exploitation, and other forms of corruption is bound to rise exponentially. Particularly, he says, considering the internet makes it all but impossible to enforce sports betting laws across state lines.

What Hatch fails to recognize is that modern Geolocation software can now perform that task.

Plus, all PASPA really did was push sports betting underground. The American Gaming Association estimates the federal ban on sports betting PASPA created helped build a $150 billion a year illegal sports betting market in the US.

What that means is that sports betting is already going on in this country in a big way. It’s happening on offshore online sportsbooks, and through illegal bookmakers often connected to organized crime. PASPA actually led to the rise of an underground and illegal gambling industry much more likely to be tainted by corruption and scandal than a legal one would ever be.

The Supreme Court decision declaring PASPA unconstitutional didn’t invent the activity of betting on sports. It just gave states the right to legalize and regulate it. Which, when you really think about it, will probably bring with it enough government oversight to help prevent the problems Hatch is talking about.

Of course, Hatch figures the opposite is true. He even says PASPA has curtailed illegal gambling activities and kept the social ills associated with sports betting at bay more than any bill written in the last several decades. An assertion that completely disregards the facts about the rise of illegal gambling in this country under it.

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Does Congress need to get involved in betting?

Hatch isn’t saying he wants to bring back a federal ban on sports betting declared unconstitutional just last week. He is agreeing each state should decide for itself whether to legalize sports gambling and how to regulate it. Hatch just wants Congress to pass legislation establishing minimum standards. He says they need to protect consumers, deter illegal bookmaking, and empower states that choose not to legalize sports gambling.

Ultimately, Hatch says his goal is to protect the integrity of sports and guide states considering sports betting.

Hatch says Congress needs to act for the sake of the athletes, the fans and the games themselves. Which, on the surface, sounds like a fair compromise.

Unfortunately, it also sounds like Congress must ignore the facts about previous federal sports betting laws to do it. Plus, they’ll need trample all over state rights. In particular, a right just handed back to states by the Supreme Court last week.

Hatch will be retiring at the end of this session of Congress. Perhaps this is all in an effort to protect his legacy in the wake of PASPA’s repeal. Unfortunately, it’s only tarnishing it. He’s starting to look like one of the athletes he claims he’s trying to protect. The kind that’s obviously beat and simply refuses to admit it.

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Martin Derbyshire

Martin Derbyshire has more than ten years of experience reporting on the poker, online gambling, and land-based casino industries for a variety of publications including Bluff Magazine, PokerNews, and PokerListings. He has traveled extensively, attending tournaments and interviewing major players in the gambling world.

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