With Sports Betting On Fire, NJ Senator Ends Fight For Federal GAME Act

Written By Grant Lucas on September 17, 2018

As a Democratic colleague pushes for federal intervention with legalized sports betting, Frank Pallone has essentially decided to pull out of the conversation.

The New Jersey senator, who last year pushed legislation for state-sanctioned sports betting with federal oversight, recently decided to pull the plug on his fight for the bill’s passage.

Speaking to the National Congress of American Indians last week, Pallone said he will no longer seek the passage of his measure, the Gaming Accountability and Modernization Enhancement (GAME) Act, which he introduced in December 2017.

“Right now,” Pallone said, per a GamblingCompliance story (paywall) that ran Friday, “my own position is — and I’m only speaking for myself — that we shouldn’t move with any federal legislation (on sports betting).”

Recalling the GAME Act

Last winter, as the US Supreme Court began hearing testimony in New Jersey’s fight for state-sanctioned wagering, Pallone introduced the GAME Act.

First and foremost, the bill would allow for individual states to roll out regulated sports betting, as Pallone’s home state did with NJ sports betting in June.

The GAME Act also made it clear that any gaming deemed legal under state law protects bettors under federal law, so long as the state put in place consumer protections related to gaming. Additionally, the bill defined “bet or wager” to include participation in lotteries, sports betting, fantasy sports, and fantasy esports.

Also of note in the bill: The Federal Trade Commission would become a clearinghouse for gaming entities to submit their consumer protections.

In short, the GAME Act gave individual states the control for which New Jersey battled in court. As something of a fail-safe, however, the federal government would oversee it all.

Nine months later and there’s NJ sports betting

Since then, NJ sports betting is on a roll with eight online sportsbooks and eight retail sportsbooks in the state. DraftKings Sportsbook app was the first of many.

So perhaps Pallone gained little to no traction in pushing forward this bill. Perhaps his colleagues’ push for more federal control when it comes to wagering irked Pallone. Perhaps both.

Regardless, Pallone reined back in his GAME Act. He noted that no federal intervention with sports betting should happen. And all of this while the Senate Minority Leader, Democrat Chuck Schumer, fights to craft a federal framework to better regulated sports betting.

Among the pleas from Schumer were for states to require sportsbooks to purchase official data from the leagues while also supporting the efforts to construct federal sports betting legislation.

Schumer’s proposal has not sat well with some lawmakers, nor with the American Gaming Association.

Pallone’s plan, and Schumer’s, unnecessary now

Part of Pallone’s reasoning for pulling the plug on his GAME Act (aside from the romping success of NJ sports betting) included how unnecessary it was to have federal involvement when it comes to regulated wagering.

In a letter sent to Schumer last week, the AGA essentially said the same thing.

“The AGA has long been a leading a leading advocate for eliminating the vast illegal sports betting market in the U.S., which was largely enabled by the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA),” wrote Sara Slane, senior vice president of public affairs for the AGA. “We believe this can best be achieved through law enforcement oversight and robust state regulation. The AGA firmly believes that additional federal engagement is not warranted at this time.”

Boiled down: “The black market of sports betting was birthed from federal involvement. So back off.”

The AGA laid out five “principles that will ensure a safe, successful, legal sports betting market” while also helping a regulated wagering market thrive, create more jobs and generate more tax revenues for state governments.

Said the AGA in its letter to Schumer:

“Replacing an already proven regulatory regime with a non-existent and untested federal oversight apparatus would be out of step with 7 in 10 Americans who think this decision should be left to each state and tribe.”

And therein is why Pallone put the GAME Act on the shelf. New Jersey is off and running.

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Grant Lucas

Grant Lucas is a longtime sportswriter who has covered high school, collegiate, and professional levels. A graduate of Linfield College in McMinnville, Grant now focuses his attention on the growing NJ online gambling and sports betting scene.

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