Washington, D.C. – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) today delivered the following statement during the Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations Subcommittee hearing on “Post-PASPA: An Examination of Sports Betting in America.”
Chairman Goodlatte: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am pleased to be here today, and want to welcome our witnesses.
Sports gambling is an issue I know well. Throughout my tenure in Congress, I have worked to curb the proliferation of unlawful gambling activity. In 2006, I led efforts to enact the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, or UIGEA. I have consistently noted the dangers of unlicensed, untaxed and unregulated Internet gambling parlors, which suck billions of dollars out of American citizens, and can serve as a vehicle for money laundering by organized crime syndicates and terrorists.
Nevertheless, we are here today because, earlier this year, the Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, or PASPA, by a 6-3 vote, on constitutional grounds. This means that state legislatures across the country are now enacting their own laws to legalize and regulate gambling.
Since the Supreme Court’s ruling in May, the states of Delaware, New Jersey, Mississippi, and West Virginia – which borders my Congressional district – have begun taking legal sports wagers. It is a certainty that more states will soon follow.
Clearly, this issue is ripe for Congress’s consideration, and I am pleased we have such a diverse and distinguished panel to educate our Members on this issue.
I want to make two things clear at the outset. I do not believe gambling is a victimless activity. In fact, I think that online gambling, in particular, can be more destructive to the families and communities of addictive gamblers than if a bricks-and-mortar casino were built next door. I am looking forward to speaking with Mr. Bruning, Mr. Bernal, and the rest of the panel about that.
My second point is this, and I have said it for years. It is a key principle of federalism that, generally, states have the authority to permit or prohibit activity that occurs wholly within their borders. Presumably, this would include gambling. However, with the development of the Internet, and online gambling, state regulations are difficult, if not impossible, to enforce as electronic communications move freely across borders.
That will be a key issue for Congress to consider. Is the Internet, by its nature, interstate or intrastate? The answer to that question underlies this entire issue. The federal wire fraud statutes, for example, unquestionably criminalize fraudulent activity that occurs on the Internet. And federal courts have consistently held that the Internet is interstate in nature. Conversely, in recent years many gambling operators have demonstrated technology that can, allegedly, ensure a bettor placing a bet is located in a state where gambling is legal.
Technology, in fact, has a pivotal role to play here. I recently witnessed a technological demonstration from a sports integrity monitoring service, reporting on suspicious activity during a 2018 World Cup qualifying match between South Africa and Senegal. As the game progressed, and the odds changed on the number of goals that would be scored, the system recognized an algorithmic outlier while tracking the placement of wagers on the game. FIFA and the sports monitors began following the game more closely, and saw the referee call a deliberate handball that simply did not happen. There was an investigation, and the referee was banned for life for match-fixing. The game was replayed, and Senegal won, qualifying for the World Cup.
Obviously, our technological capabilities as a society have come a long way. But even as we consider what is possible in that realm, it is our duty as lawmakers to remain focused on the fundamental constitutional questions, and to ensure we do what is best for our neighbors and families.
Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you again for convening this hearing. This is a difficult issue, but Congress has a duty to address it. I am a father and grandfather, as you are, and what we do here will affect generations to come.
Thank you, and I yield back the balance of my time.