Barney Frank: No One Will Be Betting On Sports Matchups

Written by:
C Costigan
Published on:
Barney Frank Online Gambling

At the behest of professional sports leagues, Congressman  Barney Frank said his legislation announced last week would exempt online wagering on sports matches, even though they have long been a favorite of bookies and gamblers alike.

"The expression by the professional leagues of shock at the notion that people would actually bet on games was one of the least persuasive emotional outbursts I have encountered, but we acknowledged the reality of it," he told Kathryn A. Wolfe of the Congressional Quarterly. "No one will be betting on professional sports games."

Don't tell that to the grass roots industry trade organization, The Interactive Media Entertainment & Gaming Association.

Backed heavily by the online sports betting community, much of which is based in the Central American nation of Costa Rica, the group has been working with various state governments in an effort to legalize sports betting at the state level.  New Jersey is one such state and it is widely believed that iMEGA will be gaining unanimous political support for its efforts there.

On March 23, The Interactive Media Entertainment & Gaming Association announced today that they will challenge the Federal law that prohibits the expansion of sports wagering to all but four states. iMEGA is joined in its suit by the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, The Thoroughbred Breeders Association of New Jersey, the Standardbred Breeder & Owners Association of New Jersey and New Jersey State Senator Raymond Lesniak (D-Union).

The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1991 (PASPA) prohibits any state - except for Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon - from permitting legal forms of sports wagering of any kind. The four states that had legal sports wagering at the time the law was passed were grandfathered in, and the other 46 states were given only one year in which to pass their own legislation or be forever barred from any attempt at offering a legal, regulated alternative to underground sports betting.

The suit filed against the federal government claims that PASPA violates five amendments to the U.S. Constitution by discriminating against the people of New Jersey and by regulating a matter that should be reserved to the states.

"It makes sense to take this huge underground national marketplace, estimated at more than $360 billion annually and bring it out into the light of day," said Joe Brennan Jr., chairman and CEO of iMEGA. "By offereing legal, regulated alternatives in sports wagering, the state can guard against criminal elements attempting to use their money to influence the outcome of games. We can protect the integrity of the games."

But it's not just at the state level where iMEGA is pushing to have UIGEA overturned, nor are they exclusively focused on sports betting.

The US 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals has notified lawyers for the Interactive Media & Gaming Association (iMEGA) and the US Department of Justice that the Court is set to consider iMEGA's challenge to the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA).

In a letter to counsel for both parties, Marcia M. Waldron, clerk for the appeals court, wrote that iMEGA v. Attorney-General USA, et al (Case Number 08-1981) has been tentatively listed on the merits on Monday, July 6 2009, in Philadelphia, PA. Oral arguments had originally been scheduled for April, but the Court has since sent iMEGA's motion to supplement the record with news about the blocking of state lottery payments to its Merit Panel for a decision. The DOJ opposes the motion.

As previously reported on, Congressman Frank's bill will face an uphill battle, not just from those in the Republican party but from the House's own leadership, Nancy Pelosi.

On the moral front, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will not approve online gambling.  She is dead set against legalizing the activity, all for personal and religious reasons.  Of course if enough of her constituents felt it might improve their stronghold, Pelosi might be swayed.  As it stands right now, this is far from being the case.

"(House Speaker Nancy) Pelosi knows that her own majority still depends on members elected from relatively conservative rural and suburban districts. Of the 254 House Democrats -- it takes 218 to form a majority -- 49 come from districts John McCain carried last year, according to a Congressional Quarterly analysis. Pelosi wants to protect those 49." ("The Real Pelosi", EJ Dionne, Washington Post Apr. 9, 2009).

Barney Frank's acknowledgement that sports betting won't be included in his latest bill can't sit well with European sports betting operators, many of whom are itching to enter the U.S. market.  While relying heavily on pressure from the European Union, many industry observers believe that this will be a tough sell considering the EU has had difficulties with its own member nations when it comes to enforcing policies related to Internet gambling (see Holland).

Christopher Costigan, Publisher



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