U.S. Senator Working On Sports-Betting Bill To Protect Amateur Athletes

Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut is working on a sports-betting bill that would establish a non-federal agency to protect amateur athletes from being exploited by gamblers, according to a prominent sports management consultant.

“If we’re going to get ahead of the gambling game, there has to be an anti-gambling, anti-corruption center — not a federal agency — set up,” said Donna Lopiano, president and founder of Sports Management Resources and former women’s athletic director at the University of Texas.

Speaking on a panel at the Aspen Institute, an international non-profit think tank in Washington, D.C., Lopiano said that Blumenthal’s bill would help educate the most vulnerable athletes in sports on how to prevent match-fixing.

“There is a way that we can have an anti-corruption agency that can identify where those matches are fixed; that has primary responsibility for educating those athletes as to how they can identify when they’re being approached,” Lopiano told about 120 people attending the Aspen Institute event Tuesday. 

“There are solutions to that, and there are people in Congress who are, I think, engaged in the right course of action,” Lopiano said.

Blumenthal’s press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Although active on tribal casino issues in Connecticut, Blumenthal has maintained a low profile when it comes to sports betting and commercial gaming.

Earlier on Tuesday, Republican Senator Mitt Romney of Utah said he and Democratic Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer of New York continue to collaborate on a bill to establish federal standards for sports betting.

“Staff to staff and principal to principal. We’re working on it,” Romney said shortly after a news conference in his Senate office.

Romney, the Republican presidential nominee in 2012, scheduled the news conference to announce the formation of a working group to study how to compensate college athletes for the commercial use of their name, image or likeness (NIL).

Asked if there is a nexus between NIL and the sports-betting bill he is working on with Schumer, Romney said: “I don’t know of a relationship between the two at this stage.”

“Senator Schumer and I are working together to say that, with regard to sports betting, if states are going to allow that we’d like to see there to be some standards so that there is not abuse in that area,” Romney said.

“But I don’t believe the sports-betting arena is connected to this particular [NIL] issue,” he said.

“Time may go on when we understand what that association might be, but I think that’s a very different set of considerations.”

When asked if he saw any connection between NIL and sports betting, Mark Emmert, who is president of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), flatly said, “No.”

The NIL issue gained momentum when California enacted a law in September to allow college athletes to hire agents.

Another view is that the May 14, 2018 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court decision to allow states to legalize sports betting was the catalyst that sparked the NIL debate.

Emmert and Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut joined Romney at his news conference, which included about 15 reporters.

Romney said Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, and Senator Marco Rubio, who unsuccessfully sought the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, were scheduled to be at Tuesday’s news conference but could not attend.

After Romney’s news conference, Emmert appeared as the first guest at the Aspen Institute event to discuss the NIL issue.

Emmert did not mention sports betting, but he said the NCAA would like Congress to enact legislation that would create a legal framework to allow student-athletes to monetize their NIL without “converting them into employees of the university.”

“The bottom line is that the legal answers to those questions are still in process because they’re more complex than we would all like them to be, but I think [the NCAA is] more than happy to move in those directions and figure out what the role of Congress needs to be to get there,” Emmert said. 

“That’s what I’ve been talking to members … of Congress about.”

The NCAA prefers a federal solution, Emmert said, because a state-by-state approach on NIL “doesn’t make any sense.”

Republican Congressman Mark Walker of North Carolina, unloaded scathing criticism of Emmert and the NCAA on a panel later in the Aspen Institute program.

Walker, who has introduced the only NIL bill so far in Congress, said Emmert and the NCAA have used “smoke and mirrors” to maintain the status quo on NIL.

“Whether you’re looking at this as a civil rights justice issue or whether you’re looking at it from a Republican free-market issue, they’re both the same in the sense … it’s a win-win,” Walker said.