Pennsylvania sports betting resolution PASPA
Nevada currently holds a monopoly on sportsbooks in America, but a Pennsylvania sports betting resolution is trying to change that by calling on members on Congress to open the market to all 50 states. (Image: Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun)

A Pennsylvania sports betting resolution passed through the state’s House Gaming Oversight Committee this week in nearly unanimous fashion, moving residents in the Keystone State closer to being permitted to legally bet on sporting events.

Authored by State Rep. Nick Kotik (D-District 45), HR619 is a resolution that urges the “Congress of the United States to lift the Federal ban on sports betting and to allow states that authorize, license and regulate casino gaming, including the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, to legalize sports betting through its licensed facilities.”

The Gaming Oversight Committee voted in favor of the resolution 23-1. Kotik is the minority chairman of the committee opposite Majority Chair State Rep. John Payne (R-District 106).

At its core, HR619 is nothing more than a petition to Congress to end sports betting prohibition on the federal level. The resolution accompanies Kotik’s HB1627, which is an actual bill that would create an exemption under the current federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA).

“The intent of this legislation is to provide our casinos with an alternative form of entertainment, while also regulating a popular market,” Kotik said last fall.

PASPA Legitimacy 

Introduced by former Senator Dennis DeConcini (D-Arizona) and signed into law in 1992 by President George H.W. Bush, PASPA has been controversial throughout its tenure as federal statute. Nevada, Oregon, Montana, and Delaware were grandfathered in and exempt from the law, but today only the Silver State offers sports betting.

Advocates for the industry argue that PASPA is unconstitutional since the United States Constitution explicitly conditions that matters not covered by the country’s supreme law are reserved to individual states.

The Tenth Amendment dictates that Congress only possesses the powers afforded to it by the US Constitution. Unfortunately for PASPA, nowhere will the subject of gambling be found in the Constitution.

Kotik pleads in his resolution, “The Federal Government must adapt to changing perceptions of sports betting and allow states that offer legal forms of gaming to decide if licensing and regulating sports betting is in the best interest of its residents.”

Eastern States Team Up

Lawmakers in Pennsylvania aren’t the only ones going after PASPA. New Jersey State Senator Ray Lesniak (D-District 20) has been fighting the legality of PASPA for years and has taken several steps to legalize sports betting.

Lesniak was one of the lead architects of bringing casino gambling online in the Garden State, but he also wants to expand the market to allow betting on professional and collegiate athletic events.

A study by the Marquette University Sports Law Review in 2014 concluded that PASPA would fail a constitutional challenge in court.

“If the Court is willing to step in a new direction and analyze PASPA with more than the economic effect on interstate commerce in mind, it is likely that the Act will be declared unconstitutional and states will have the power to regulate their own wagering schemes,” the research stated.

With $100 billion estimated to be wagered illegally on sports each year in the US, ending the market’s prohibition would generate substantial revenues for states should the federal government finally repeal PASPA.