SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Orrin Hatch cautioned against the potential "dark side" of sports betting in an op-ed for Sports Illustrated on Wednesday, while calling for federal oversight as states decide whether to permit wagering on professional and college games.
As the multibillion-dollar gambling industry grows, so does the likelihood that players will be exposed to bribes, exploitation and other forms of corruption endemic to an environment where sports betting is poorly regulated, the Utah Republican said.
Promoters, he said, often portray sports betting as a natural outlet for fan enthusiasm, a benign side hobby that has no effect on the culture or the purity of the game.
"Seldom discussed, however, is the potential dark side of unchecked sports betting, including the risk of embroiling referees, coaches and even the players themselves — forever tainting the image of the teams involved," Hatch said in the online piece his office said would appear in the magazine next week.
Congress must protect the integrity of sports and guide states as they consider whether to embrace sports betting, though the decision to legalize gambling on games and how to regulate it rests with each state, he said.
Hatch said he is working on legislation that would establish minimum standards for sports betting that protect consumers, deter illegal bookmaking and empower states that opt against the legalization of sports gambling. The law would also include measures to prevent underage gambling and assurances that players, referees and coaches don't participate.
"If anything, the Wild West world of sports gambling requires increased attention and engagement," he said. "Inaction on this issue is not an option."
The U.S. Supreme Court last week overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, a bill Hatch wrote nearly 25 years ago to insulate athletic organizations against corruption associated with gambling.
Hatch is not a fan of the ruling, calling it "problematic."
Utah does not have any form of legal gambling. State leaders say they intend to keep it that way.