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Christopher A. Krafcik

U.S. Sports Leagues Take Issue with New Frank Bills

18 May 2009

A copy of the letter, as an attachment, was added to this article Tuesday.

Five powerful United States sports leagues have sent a jointly written letter to House Financial Services Committee members opposing Barney Frank's two new Internet gambling bills.

The letter, dated May 14, takes aim first at the sports-betting language in Mr. Frank's Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection, and Enforcement Act, introduced May 6.

That language currently prohibits any Internet sports wagering that would violate the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA).

PASPA is a 1992 law that prevents certain states and Indian tribes from authorizing or operating sports wagering.

But because PASPA does not prohibit interstate sports-wagering activity generally, the leagues argue that PASPA has no relevant application to interstate Internet sports-wagering activity in particular.

"To remain faithful to longstanding federal policy against sports betting, the bill could simply have barred licensees from accepting sports wagers," the letter said. "We urge the sponsors to do just that."

The leagues, therefore, are calling for an outright prohibition of Internet sports wagering under the Wire Wager Act of 1961.

Mr. Frank's Reasonable Prudence in Regulation Act, introduced the same day as the consumer protection and enforcement act, was also scrutinized by the leagues.

The prudence in regulation act would delay the compliance deadline for regulations issued under the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), by one year, to December 2010.

"The bill would provide for delay only; it adds nothing in the way of alternative, stronger enforcement mechanisms," the letter said. "In its present form, [the prudence in regulation act] would serve simply to disable a law [HR 4411] that passed the House in July 2006 317-93, with large majorities of both party caucuses. Therefore, we oppose it."

The letter was signed by lawyers representing the National Hockey League, Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, the National Football League and the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

Click here to view a copy of the letter.

IGN's Take

The leagues have a legitimate gripe against Mr. Frank's regulation and consumer protection act. If PASPA doesn't afford the regulator any power to police interstate Internet sports-wagering activity, why use it as the enforcement standard?

When the bill was introduced, one Washington, D.C., lobbyist close to the process told IGamingNews that although PASPA was chosen as the enforcement standard, the intent was to prohibit licensees from accepting any wagers on sports.

No surprise, then, that the leagues are calling for a clearer measure by which to enforce the intent.

However, it's in poor rhetorical form to imply HR 4411 (a predecessor of the UIGEA) remains imbued with special political weight because it passed the House of Representatives by a majority vote in 2006.

The leagues fail to mention that HR 4411, as a standalone bill, never saw a vote in the Senate and was later attached to -- then passed as part of -- an unrelated port-security bill.

They also fail to mention that the UIGEA's final language is different than that put forth under HR 4411.

U.S. Sports Leagues Take Issue with New Frank Bills is republished from
Christopher A. Krafcik
Christopher A. Krafcik