Admittedly, this blog is becoming a little gambling heavy. But next to death and taxes, the only sure thing in a sports fan’s life is gambling, which is why a bill recently proposed by two Republicans Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) to kill online gambling should be on every sports fan’s radar.
The bill, known as the Restoration of America’s Wire Act, might actually bolster the lucrative fantasy sports industry while destroying online gambling.
As Julian Hattem reported for The Hill, the Restoration of America’s Wire Act, would reverse a 2011 Justice Department decision that opened the doors for states to permit online gambling in addition to horse racing, fantasy sports and other games, which were already permitted under the law. Eric Holder’s decision was a momentous shift in the government’s interpretation of the Wire Act and the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA).
The latest proposed bill, however, would re-outlaw poker, blackjack and other online casino games, but not fantasy sports.
Since the 2011 DOJ decision, three states (New Jersey, Delaware, and Nevada) have legalized some form of online gambling, and many others such as Pennsylvania, California, and Illinois are considering following suit. Those states in the online gaming arena already have formed compacts with each other to allow interstate poker playing. which is seemingly a route around a federal ban on online poker. Create a 50-state compact and there is no need for a federal law.
Restoring the Wire Act to its pre-2011 status would be disastrous for poker, but perhaps drive more revenue into fantasy sports.
Fantasy sports would survive because the Republicans behind the bill would allow the DOJ to classify fantasy sports as games of skill. As the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, a lobbying group for fantasy companies, put it, “Fantasy sports leagues are games of skill. Managers must take into account a myriad of statistics, facts and game theory in order to be competitive.”
The FSTA has already brought on the law firm Dentons to help rally support for the Wire Act Restoration bill. And frankly, why not? If Republicans can kill off poker and other forms of online gaming, then more people will inevitably turn to fantasy sports as a gambling outlet.
However, if horse betting and fantasy sports betting are considered games of skill and not chance, then why is sports betting illegal?
As a quick aside, the three primary elements of gambling are prize, consideration, and chance. In America, if skill predominates chance, then it is not gambling, and thus not subject to anti-gambling laws. Most states, for no good reason, consider poker a game of chance, rather than skill. But if fantasy sports is skill, then so is poker and sports betting. I mean, if fantasy sports are truly about skill, then wouldn’t we all win our league titles?
Another major question that arises from the bill is why kill off the new, lucrative online gaming industry when it can help cash-strapped states?
The answer, oddly enough, is money.
Although online gaming is a great revenue source, it does not help the politicians. But you know who does? Sheldon Adelson. The casino magnate has extremely deep pockets and hates online gaming with a passion. He has thrown his full support behind this bill, which translates to pouring a lot of money into the politicians voting for it.
Additionally, major U.S. corporations such as Fox, CBS, ABC via ESPN, and Yahoo stand to gain from the increase in fantasy sports revenue. Those corporations’ deep pockets are also motivating Sen. Graham to make public statements that President Obama is ignoring the law by allowing online gaming. You better believe if these same corporations could get in the Internet poker game, they would silence politicians like Sen. Graham.
As it stands now, though, if the Republicans can gain control of Congress and the White House, legal online poker might soon become extinct in this country. Better start researching for your fantasy draft, because it might be the only legal form of gambling left come 2016.