Pennsylvania lawmaker proposes sports betting legislation

Pennsylvania Representatives Robert Matzie plans to introduce a bill to legalise sports betting in the state, saying that he is encouraged by President Donald Trump's previous comments in favour of regulation.

The bill is yet to be filed but early indications are that it will seek to allow sports betting at the state’s licensed gaming facilities, with Matzie describing his state as being "uniquely positioned to oversee sports betting in all its forms".

He cites New Jersey's appeal before the Supreme Court as a key motivation for preparing the legislation.

Earlier this month the Supreme Court delayed a decision on whether to hear New Jersey's appeal in its on-going effort to legalise sports betting, in order to hear the views of the new Trump administration.

"This is encouraging, given that President Trump has addressed his stance on the sports betting industry – and his support for legalization – on at least two occasions," Matzie said.

In 2015 Trump appeared on Fox Radio show The Herd With Colin Cowherd and said he was in favour of sports betting and daily fantasy sports regulation, based on their popularity with US players. An estimated $400bn is wagered on sports in the US each year, with only 1 per cent of these bets placed legally, while fantasy contests attract around 57m participants annually.

Trump also spoke of his support for legal sports betting in 1993, noting that it would allow states to keep taxes low and fund programmes for senior citizens.

However, the new president also has a history of contradicting past statements and changing his stance on a range of issues.

Despite this, Matzie believes the time is right for Pennsylvania to make a push for legal sports betting, especially after the state announced record annual gambling revenue for 2016. Revenue for slots and table games increased 1.25 per cent year-on-year to $3.2bn, bringing total revenue from regulated gambling to almost $26bn over 10 years.

"As evidenced by yet another record setting year of gaming revenues, our licensed facilities are thriving," Matzie said. "Legalising sports betting will simply enable Pennsylvania to regulate a multimillion dollar industry that already exists."

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