American Sports Leagues Attack Frank Bill Again

8 August 2007

American professional and collegiate sports leagues are again expressing their disapproval of regulated online gambling in the United States.

"We should help raise awareness of the threat that gambling poses to cherished American athletics. We should never put a stamp of approval on sports gambling."
- Rep. Donald Payne
US House of Representatives

A coalition consisting of the National Football League, Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League and the National Collegiate Athletic Association sent a letter on Aug. 2 to members of Congress, imploring them to oppose Rep. Barney Frank's, D-Mass., Internet Gambling Regulation and Enforcement Act (IGREA) and other related bills currently in Congress. The group sent a similar letter on April 24, but the new one goes further to outline the particular dangers of Internet gambling to the integrity of American professional sports.

"Sports betting is incompatible with preserving the integrity of American athletics," the coalition states in its letter. "For many decades, we have actively enforced strong policies against sports betting."

While the sports leagues have been enforcing anti-gambling policies, a multitude of U.S. citizens have been wagering on their events.

And while Frank took the leagues' concerns into consideration and included opt-outs for sports leagues in the IGREA (i.e. they can choose not to allow any form of wagering on their events), the coalition states in the letter that this is reason enough to oppose the bill because it could pave the way for Congress to sanction sports betting. Furthermore, the leagues say, the Frank bill sets a dangerous precedent by opening the door for legal challenges before U.S. courts and the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Meanwhile, after a four-year dispute with the government of Antigua and Barbuda over U.S. prohibitive I-gaming policies, the United States is withdrawing gambling from its commitments to the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) on the grounds that the commitment never included gambling services. Thus, the coalition is opposed to I-gaming regulation legislation because it endangers the withdrawal process and asked Congress to do the same.

On behalf of the leagues, Rep. Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., presented the letter the House. In doing so, Towns, who supported the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) last year, told the House that he has "long been concerned about protecting American athletics from the taint of gambling." He asked both chambers to oppose any and all efforts to legalize online gambling.

Oddly enough, Towns is currently listed as a co-sponsor of the IGREA.

Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C., presented the letter to the Senate. Following is an excerpt from her presentation:

. . . There are efforts afoot in the House of Representatives to legalize Internet gambling, less than a year after we enacted the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006. I strongly supported UIGEA, and supported its inclusion in the SAFE Ports Act, so that after more than 10 years of overwhelming bipartisan support for doing something to stop illegal Internet gambling in this country, we finally have an enforcement law with teeth.

But now, before the regulations for UIGEA have even been written, international gambling interests are telling our colleagues in the House that Internet gambling can never be stopped, so we might as well legalize, regulate, and tax it. We might as well decide that everyone speeds on the George Washington Parkway, so we should just eliminate the speed limits and make it a toll road. Internet gambling is just as dangerous--its 24/7 accessibility from any location, speed, and anonymity make it the 'crack cocaine' of gambling, leading to addiction, young people wrecking their financial futures, family breakdown, and even crime and suicide. The answer is stepping up enforcement efforts, not abandoning the law and government feeding off the trough of personal tragedy. … I hope that my colleagues here in the Senate will join me on the lookout for Internet gambling legalization efforts and will firmly reject and rebuff any such proposals.

Rep. Donald Payne, D-N.J., who also voted in favor of the UIGEA, added that most Americans are unaware that sports gambling is--and has been--illegal in the United States and that Congress should act to maintain the integrity of American athletics.

"We should help raise awareness of the threat that gambling poses to cherished American athletics," Payne said. "We should never put a stamp of approval on sports gambling."

Click here to read a copy of the letter from the Congressional Record.

Emily Swoboda is the senior staff writer at IGamingNews. She lives in St. Louis, Mo.