PASPA – Five years on – did any initial predictions come true or not?

By | May 9, 2023


With the fifth anniversary of the PASPA repeal on May 14th, we caught up with Compliable’s Chief Regulatory Officer, Justin Stempeck, who examines what was predicted in May 2018 and how accurate those initial guesses have proved to be.

“National regulation on sports betting”

When PASPA was overturned, the Supreme Court explicitly placed the power to regulate gaming in the hands of the states. It would be extraordinarily unlikely for our highest court to conclude that betting is not a federal issue, then have legislators introduce another national law, yet there were calls for this strategy from numerous stakeholders in 2018.

While the different approaches of each state were less than ideal, the industry was able to adapt and continue to advance in each new jurisdiction that has legalized.

Despite the ‘patchwork quilt’ aspect of regulation there are far more commonalities than differences. Regulators have made some efforts to avoid reinventing the wheel, but it would be great to see wider momentum. As a former regulator, I understand that each state has its own unique pressures and competing interests to juggle, but ultimately, a push towards uniformity will be a success for everyone in the absence of national regulation of the sector.

“National Collegiate Athletic Association’s sports integrity concerns”

Betting on collegiate sports has always occurred but it took place offshore and in illegal markets before the repeal of PASPA. The expansion of sports betting includes official regulation, taxation and supervision of the activity, which can only be a good thing. A number of regulated entities are now actively ensuring there are no discrepancies in game performance and there is a vested interest in guaranteeing that everything is above board. With some states today allowing betting on collegiate sports, people have become more comfortable with the idea.

The NCAA continues to officially oppose sports betting, yet appointed former Massachusetts governor, Charlie Baker as its president this past March. Notably, Governor Baker was a proponent of legalized sports betting in Massachusetts and ultimately signed it into law.  The combination of a sports betting friendly president and a lack of major integrity scandals since legalization may shift their official stance in the future.

“Increased risk of match-fixing”

As of yet, there have been no high-profile match-fixing scandals despite the existential threat and this is in large a testament to the leagues’ enforcement of its own integrity as well as the plethora of third-party monitoring services now available.

A match-fixing scandal would have a significant impact on the industry as a lot of bettors would likely be lost due to a lack of trust. With sports, the thrill and excitement lie in the possibility that anything can happen and underdogs can become winners, if that narrative is shown to be fiction, the reputational damage would be sizeable. The ripple effect of such an event would carry on for years as critics of sports betting could use a match-fixing scandal to argue against legalization.

“Responsible Gambling – a negative impact”

The expansion of betting and gaming is naturally going to lead to an increase in problem gaming. There is still a lot of data to collect and synthesize, particularly given that many regulated jurisdictions have only been up and running between one and three years.

Operators have started to take a focused view of responsible gaming and have dedicated internal teams, as well as funding research. Failure here is another existential threat to the industry and a big scandal could do a huge amount of damage to a nascent industry.

I see responsible gambling being a cutting-edge issue as it is so critically important so it will only become more and more relevant moving forward.

“32 states to enact sports-gambling legislation by the end of 2023”

This was a very accurate prediction as gambling is now legal in 35 states. Expansion has slowed down a bit compared with the great momentum we saw between 2018-2020, but we will see additional states roll out legislation in the short term. Some states will never legalize of course, but eventually, we will have 80-90% of the US allowing sports betting.

California, Texas and Florida are the three remaining big states that everyone is now eagerly waiting for, offering huge potential due to their respective market size.

“International betting operators prohibited free access to the US”

No rules or regulations have been implemented to specifically keep out remote operators or benefit local ones except those operating in black or grey markets. The US has been an open market for operators from Europe, but I have spoken to many companies who are finding the different rules across the regulated states extremely confusing and resource draining. The US is the equivalent of 50 countries and there is very little federal law that applies to gambling, making it difficult to operate if you are not a company with a dedicated compliance team or efficient tools to fill that need.

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