What Is The GAME Act?
Lost in the debate about sports betting recently was the congressional GAME Act. What is the GAME Act? The GAME Act, which stands for the Gaming Accountability and Modernization Enhancement Act, is a nonsensically named attempt on the part of New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr., to establish an alternative avenue to sports betting legalization if the state’s Supreme Court challenge of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA, 1992) didn’t bear fruit. The GAME Act – aka HR 4530 – would have effectively repealed PASPA if given the opportunity.
Naturally, the SCOTUS overturned PASPA as unconstitutional and in violation of both the 10th Amendment and the long-standing governmental “Equal Sovereignty Doctrine”, rendering the GAME Act moot. However, given that the proposal was debated in Congress for an entire session and garnered lots of bipartisan support nationwide, perhaps the bill had some small influence on that Supreme Court decision. We shall never know. Now, the question is whether or not the GAME Act – or something like it – will rise to replace the now-defunct PASPA. The federal government has made no secret of its desire to continue regulating legal sports betting throughout the country (which is beyond their purview, to begin with, but that’s a different story).
What Will Happen If A Measure Like The GAME Act Is Passed?
The GAME Act missed out on its opportunity for success but a similar bill could see its way into legislation. Since PASPA was overturned and the federal government hasn’t replaced it with anything yet, many states have taken the initiative to set up their own sports betting rules and regulations. The GAME Act had specific provisions in its language that all states in the country would have the ability to establish, monitor, and regulate its own wagering industry, and it also codified the right of the states to individually offer Internet-based sports betting to residents. This would all still be geo-fenced in accordance with the Interstate Wire Act (1961) and the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA), but since those federal laws were not also overturned by the Supreme Court, the states must adhere to them anyways.
The only real thing a law like the GAME Act (or whatever replaces it) brings to the table is perhaps a flat “integrity fee” system, which local state sportsbooks vehemently oppose near universally, as do most of the states that have already legalized sports wagering. Plus, there’s nothing stopping any of the major US sports leagues (NFL, NCAA, MLB, NBA, NHL) from individually negotiating “integrity fees” with any state they wish to lobby for the privilege. By the end of 2018, 8 states were offering brick-and-mortar sports betting services. Other states legalized the pastime before the end of 2018, but their front-facing betting lounges were delayed a bit into 2019.
How Would The GAME Act Help The States?
Prior to the Supreme Court’s PASPA ruling, the GAME Act would have significantly increased the autonomy of each state by allowing them to offer sports betting on their own terms. But the SCOTUS decision paved the way for this state-dictated sports betting legislation without additional restrictions. If the GAME Act passed now, it would actually harm the states far more than it would help. They would have to cede much of their regulatory autonomy to the federal government, which proved for 25 years under PASPA that it has no ability to properly regulate sports betting. The current system is vastly superior for all involved parties; even the federal government sees more financial benefit under the post-PASPA rules.
How Would The GAME Act Impact Daily Fantasy Sports?
One of the areas the GAME Act differs in from previous gaming-related laws is its classification of daily fantasy sports (DFS) as gambling, something not even the UIGEA did, even as it almost entirely dismantled the online poker industry. The DFS industry often uses the UIGEA’s differentiation between daily fantasy contests as “games of skill” (rather than constituting gambling, which typically comprises “games of chance”) as a legal defense against anti-gambling legislation that could keep fantasy websites out of certain state markets.
This led to the unintended consequence of the GAME Act losing support from the professional sports leagues, which have softened their stance on sports betting in light of the practice’s increasing popularity and the PASPA overturn. The leagues have, for the most part, formed solid working relationships with the major DFS operators, which professional sports executives view as partners in driving engagement with their dedicated fan bases. That being said, if something like the GAME Act passes, it would not necessarily mean that DFS would be in any danger of being unable to operate in any state market. In fact, the fantasy sports industry could see a boom like it never has before by opening up the possibility of integrating itself into the casino industry that would also likely get a boost by the passage of the law.
Will The GAME Act Be Passed Into Law?
As things currently stand, the answer is almost certainly “no.” The GAME Act has been rendered obsolete due to the repeal of PAPSA and the expansion of state legislation. However, that doesn’t mean that the federal government is content to allow the states to continue operating their own “non-unified” sports wagering industries. Indeed, the opposite seems true, with several congresspersons already offering up alternative, sweeping federal sports betting laws. New York senator Chuck Schumer, one of the busiest bodies in congress, has already proffered a “framework” – along with fellow senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) – that would essentially handcuff states post-PASPA. Dubbed the “Consumer Protection and Sports Integrity” bill, it would override a number of things currently left up to the states. For example, this nonsense would:
It is clear that the federal government – or at least powerful, influential figures within that government – intend to apply an overarching rubric to state-by-state legal sports betting. This will lead to more expensive wager prices (as house takes will be increased to cover the increased overhead), less choice, and less ability for states to cater to the needs of their own residents, as sports betting is not and never has been a one-size-fits-all proposition. So no, the GAME Act will not be passed into law. But something far worse probably will. What is the GAME Act, then? In the near future, it will probably be a fond memory of what could have been.
The Game Act FAQs
Will The Federal Government Draft Another Sports Betting Bill?
A federal sports betting bill is actually being drafted now. U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer and Senator Mitt Romney are working together to draft a federal sports betting bill. However, it would work more closely to PASPA then it would to the Game Act. Details of the bill are still being fleshed out but the NCAA has come out in full support anyway.
Would Sports Leagues Have Preferred The Game Act?
Yes, professional sports leagues and the NCAA are all in favor of federal regulation over sports betting. However, what they’re really after is either a mandate against all legal sports betting (like the NCAA) or just want all sportsbooks to have to use official league data so that the leagues can make money from sports betting.
How Would The Game Act Have Affected Sportsbooks?
The Game Act would have forced us sportsbooks to use official league data. This would have cost the sportsbooks extra to obtain and those sports betting venues or apps would have just passed along that cost to the consumer in the form of less appealing betting lines. It also would have given the leagues the power to restrict certain bet types which would have severely limited a sportsbooks offerings.