Two US Senators have introduced legislation to "preserve the integrity of sporting events" through federal oversight of sports betting.

Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) have introduced the Sports Wagering Market Integrity Act of 2018, which would put in place safety measures to protect consumers, preserve the integrity of sporting events, and ensure the propriety of the sports wagering market.

The bill begins by prohibiting the acceptance of sports bets, with exceptions for social gambling and sports betting in states that meet certain minimum standards approved by the Attorney General. It also permits states to authorize online sports betting to provide a regulated alternative to the illegal market.

The bill also requires operators to use official sports data provided or licensed by professional sports leagues to determine the outcome of sports bets through 2024, and establishes a national self-exclusion list.

In addition to this, the bill would provide law enforcement with additional authority to target the illegal sports betting market and 'bad actors' in the growing legal market, as well as establishing a process interstate sports betting.

“This bill is the first step toward ensuring that sports betting is done right in the states that choose to legalize it,” said Hatch, who was one of four original authors of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 which was overturned by the Supreme Court in May.

“Just as importantly, it provides protections for states that choose not to go down that path. For the better part of this year, I have engaged with and learned from stakeholders on all sides of this issue – the gaming industry, professional and amateur sports leagues, consumer advocates, data providers, law enforcement, and many others.

“The result of those discussions is a comprehensive bill that tackles numerous, complex issues and includes provisions to protect the interests of each of those stakeholders. I am pleased that the Minority Leader has joined me in introducing this legislation, confirming that while this may not be an easy issue, it is a bipartisan one. There is much work to be done, but I hope this bill will serve as a placeholder for the next Congress, should they decide to continue working to address these issues.”

Since the Supreme Court ruling (Murphy v. NCAA) in May, seven US states have joined Nevada in accepting sports wagers, with more than two dozen other states considering legislation to legalize sports betting.

The Sports Wagering Market Integrity Act notes that US states have historically regulated other forms of gambling with little intervention by the federal government, but claims that the interstate nature of most sports betting and the “thriving, transnational illegal market” demand the attention of the federal government to establish consistent standards for regulators.

“As a lifelong sports fan I treasure the purity of the game, and after Murphy v. NCAA, I knew that Congress had an obligation to ensure that the integrity of the games we love was never compromised,” said Schumer. “That is why I believe the time is now to establish a strong national integrity standard for sports betting that will protect consumers and the games themselves from corruption.

“The bipartisan legislation that Senator Hatch and I have introduced, follows the principles laid out in the federal framework that I released in August and will serve as solid foundation upon which we build the appropriate guardrails around the burgeoning sports betting industry. I will strongly advocate for this bill to move forward and for Congress to vote to pass federal legislation very soon.”

The bill has already received support from several professional sports associations that have historically been opposed to legalised sports betting in the US, including the National Football League and National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

Opposition to the bill is led by the American Gaming Association (AGA), which has worked to prevent federal government overreach on sports betting.

“This bill is the epitome of a solution in search of a problem, representing an unprecedented and inappropriate expansion of federal involvement in the gaming industry, which is currently one of the most strictly regulated in the country,” said AGA senior vice president of public affairs Sara Slane.

Slane noted that across the country, nearly 4,000 dedicated public servants already regulate all forms of gaming, including sports betting, with state and tribal regulators having decades of experience effectively overseeing gaming operations within their jurisdictions.

“Additional areas this bill seeks to address – including the mandatory use of official league data and the creation of a national sports wagering clearinghouse – can, and should, be decided by marketplace negotiations between private businesses and cooperative agreements among jurisdictions,” Slane explained. “In the mere six months since the US Supreme Court paved the way for legal, regulated sports betting, significant developments on both of these fronts have already occurred without any federal involvement.

“While federal regulation of sports betting will continue to be a non-starter for the gaming industry, we appreciate the sponsors’ recognition that more must be done to curb illegal sports betting operations, which continue to pose the biggest impediment to the success of a legal market that will benefit and protect consumers, sports leagues and casino operators alike.”

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