There seems to be something in the air in regards to sports gambling this year. The number of states pushing legislation that would regulate sports gambling is increasing. President Trump has gone on record saying he’s willing to examine the issue after talks with the major sports leagues commissioners and the proper legal authorities. Another key character in the sports gambling saga is Vice President Mike Pence.
Pence’s involvement stems from his tenure as Governor of Indiana, which ran from 2013 to 2017. During his stint as Governor, Pence made Indiana the second state in history to pass a law regulating daily fantasy sports (DFS). DFS comprise all the excitement and involvement of standard fantasy leagues, but without the season-long commitment. DFS players draft teams and collect points in a similar fashion, but DFS leagues can expire in as little time as a week or sometimes that very same day. This model attracts players because there are still great—if not even better—payouts without the commitment that comes with standard fantasy leagues.
DFS leagues have been met with fierce criticism, as lawmakers are trying to clarify whether it falls under sports betting or just a game of skill. In Indiana’s case, the bill—S339—puts DFS as a game of skill. There are also several other restrictions with the bill, including no betting on college sports and an age restriction of 18 years old. The bill “provides that paid fantasy sports games may be conducted through an Internet web site maintained and operated by a game operator or on the premises of certain licensed facilities under a contract between a game operator and the owner of the licensed facility.” It also provides “for the regulation of paid fantasy sports games by the paid fantasy sports division of the gaming commission (division).” (S 339) The state even went so far as to establish a separate division of the gaming commission to regulate the industry, something that can be done on a national level. This could also extend beyond DFS to sports gambling as a whole.
DFS is different than sports gambling in both format and function. Sports gambling is banned under the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, or PASPA, a 1992 law that restricts sports gambling in 46 states. However, the emergence of DFS has pushed several states to launch legislative initiatives that support it, like Indiana’s bill. There are also bills that propose regulating sports gambling, similar to what Nevada has.
Pence’s signing of the Indiana bill, whether political or not, showcases support for the industry at the very least. As mentioned earlier, Trump’s already addressed the issue of sports gambling as a possibility, and Pence’s past moves as Governor could also affect the administration’s decision on the matter. In any case, the only way this could ever happen would be if PASPA were repealed. While Indiana residents are one of the states that enjoys DFS, Indiana sports gambling still has a long road to go. There is a growing sense that something will happen this year with the combination of Trump’s administration and the increasing number of states drafting legislation in preparation for the sports gambling industry. Perhaps Indiana’s former Governor can have some influence in the matter.