State Senator, State police at odds over football pools

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The Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos will battle it out on Super Bowl Sunday. But ahead of the big game there is controversy around a State Senator and State Police over small betting pools on the NFL game.

The question is whether charitable and private clubs like the VFW, American Legion, Moose Lodge, etc. are legally allowed to operate small betting pools on the Super Bowl.

State Senator Lisa Boscola added an amendment to the Small Games of Chance bill (which is now officially a law) makes the practice legal. “Clubs must follow rules such as no more than 100 people can participate in each pool, an entry fee can not be more than $20, and all money must go to the winner,” said State Senator Lisa Boscola (D) 18th District.

Senator Boscola said contrary to what State Police are saying, the pools do not conflict with Federal Law, or the Professional Amateur Sports Protection Act because the State and clubs are not profiting.

“The Federal Government didn’t want huge sports betting on the outcomes of teams winning, and the state getting a cut of that money. That is what they are concerned with. Not these small innocent football pools and brackets. But State Police are saying, no, we are going to cite people. Now these clubs, where state law says they can, they are worried because they don’t want to get cited,” said Sen. Boscola.

State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan said the law did change some of the betting responsibilities for clubs, and now allows for general pools. Where he disagrees, he said the law clearly states the operations of the pool must comply with the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. The Federal Law does not allow wagering on amateur or professional sports.

“You could not bet on any aspect regarding the game itself, like the score, the number of touchdown passes thrown, or something like that. You could have a pool of how long does the Star Spangled Banner takes, you could say how many commercials are going to be in the first half hour,  you could have a pool on something like that but nothing concerning the athletic side,” said Commissioner Noonan.

Noonan said they have only cited 72 clubs in the past several years, and they will not be targeting clubs. But, if a club is caught, the owner, not participants, will be cited. The fine carries a penalty of $50 to $2,000.

Pennsylvania Adjutant Quartermaster John B. Getz Jr. said he plans to be cautious. “If I have a State Police Enforcement Officer telling me he’s going to arrest me for having a football pool, I guarantee I will not have that. I do recommend for all clubs not to have them,” said Getz.

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