Matzie: Feds should entrust Pennsylvania with sports betting decision

HARRISBURG, June 29 – The state House of Representatives today adopted a resolution sponsored by state Rep. Rob Matzie, D-Beaver/Allegheny, that urges the federal government to lift the ban on sports betting.    

“Just last week, the National Hockey League announced the awarding of a franchise to the City of Las Vegas,” Matzie said. “This shows just how drastically public opinion and policy has shifted over time and should deliver the killing blow to the notion that professional athletics cannot coexist with legal sports wagering.” 

House Resolution 619, which was adopted by a vote of 140-59, urges Congress to repeal the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 which prohibits sports betting in every state except Nevada, Oregon, Montana and Delaware.

“Pennsylvania responsibly oversees and regulates various forms of gaming throughout the state including the lottery, slot machines and horse racing. But an arbitrary law, which hasn’t been revisited by the federal government in more than two decades, prevents us from seriously considering sports betting,” Matzie said. “While discussions would be needed about how sports betting would work in the Pennsylvania, I think it verges on ridiculous that the federal government would prevent us from even exploring the option.”

If the federal government lifts the ban, any state with authorized, license and regulated casino gaming would have the authority to legalize sports betting at its licensed facilities.

“I would feel uncomfortable with forcing any state to allow sports betting if that isn’t what the people of that state wanted, but the current prohibition is not only burdensome for the states that are interested in exploring the option but also ineffective, as we know unregulated sports betting is readily available in our communities and online,” Matzie said.

It is estimated that sports betting in the United States totals $400 billion per year, with only 1 percent of those bets taking place in legal form.

Last week, the House adopted an amendment on legislation, originally introduced to regulate the fantasy sports industry, which would allow sports betting in Pennsylvania if the federal government repeals its ban. House Bill 2150 currently awaits consideration from the House Appropriations Committee.