Pennsylvania Possibly Paving The Way For A Future In Sports Betting

Posted on January 31, 2017

[toc]Sports betting is still federally banned in most states. Pennsylvania could be taking steps to be ready to quickly start offering that should the law change.

A new bill proposed by state Rep. Robert Matzie aims to ready the Keystone State to compete with neighboring New Jersey to offer sports betting on the East Coast should the opportunity arise.

What is in the PA sports betting bill?

According to a memo from Rep. Matzie, the proposed legislation will go ahead and give the okay for licensed casinos in the state to offer sports betting should it ever become legal nationwide.

Currently the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) explicitly prohibits sports betting everywhere but Nevada. When PASPA was passed in 1992, states had a year to file to be included in the list of exemptions. No states took advantage of that option.

Matzie does not want Pennsylvania to miss another opportunity. In his memo seeking co-sponsors, Matzie observes that that sports betting is a $400 billion industry and the United States is currently missing out on the overwhelming majority of business.

Matzie mentions New Jersey’s recent attempts to get in on sports betting and encourages his fellow legislators to be prepared so the Garden State does not suck up all the East Coast sports betting opportunities.

He writes:

“Our Commonwealth is uniquely positioned to oversee sports betting in all its forms, and should be ready to act should the federal ban be lifted.

As evidenced by yet another record setting year of gaming revenues, our licensed facilities are thriving. Legalizing sports betting will simply enable Pennsylvania to regulate a multi-million dollar industry that already exists.”

Why does this bill matter?

You might be wondering why a state law legalizing something that is expressly prohibited by the federal government is worth wasting time voting on.

Pennsylvania is actually not the first state to consider such legislation. The state of New York already passed a similar law to set the state up to offer sports wagering when and if the laws change.

New Jersey is currently embroiled in a legal battle against PASPA as Gov. Chris Christie and other politicians fight to get sports betting in Atlantic City. Currently New Jersey’s case is pending review by the Supreme Court.

Every court so far has taken the side of PAPSA and the professional sports leagues and the NCAA. New Jersey still maintains PAPSA is unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court was scheduled to announce whether or not they would hear the case on Jan. 17. The court decided to wait until President Donald Trump’s new nominee for solicitor general is vetted and approved.

Currently the nominee has not been announced. The husband of Trump advisor KellyAnne Conway, George Conway, is said to be in a two-way race with Chuck Cooper.

It is currently unclear how the Trump administration will view sports betting. Given that, Pennsylvania’s planning for the future makes a lot more sense.

Jessica Welman Avatar
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Jessica Welman

Jessica Welman is a contributor to PlayPennsylvania and managing editor of PlayIndiana and PlayTenn. A longtime poker media presence, Jess has worked as a tournament reporter for the World Poker Tour, co-hosted a podcast for Poker Road, and served as the managing editor for WSOP.com.

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