The thriving illegal sports betting market continues to reach new heights. After Americans made 9 billion in illegal wagers on U.S. sports in 2014, last year saw an uptick to nearly 0 billion in illegal bets. Super Bowl 50 and March Madness are two examples of prime targets for an illegal market that’s siphoning tax revenues and preying on consumers.
And because the federal ban has clearly failed, the American Gaming Association is promoting a new approach to sports betting that recognizes what millions of sports fans want: greater engagement with the sports they love.
Three developments in recent weeks are driving momentum for sports betting. First, AGA hosted its first-ever Law Enforcement Summit, where dozens of law enforcement leaders gathered. Second, the NHL became the first major sports league to locate a franchise in Las Vegas. Third, AGA convened a significantly expanded Gaming Experts Forum that helps to shape gaming policy and perception on sports betting and other critical gaming issues.
AGA took the unprecedented step in June of convening more than 30 law enforcement leaders in Washington, D.C. to educate this influential group on a new approach to sports betting. Members of AGA’s Illegal Gambling Advisory Board led a summit that convened local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.
Law enforcement on hand included the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the National Sheriffs’ Association and the National District Attorneys Association.
The conversation focused on how law enforcement, which faces many competing priorities, can serve the public more effectively and share potential best practices for dealing with the illegal market, and whether a legal, regulated sports betting market would aid their efforts. The summit produced three key takeaways: Law enforcement’s engagement is critical to addressing outdated federal sports betting law; illegal sports betting is anything but a victimless crime; and a regulated sports betting market could aid law enforcement efforts.
The Law Enforcement Summit came just days before the NHL announced that it will expand to Las Vegas, marking a significant win for Nevada, a win for casino gaming and a win for fans. It’s about time that Las Vegas joins the ranks of major league sports cities, and the ramifications of this move are many.
First, the placement of the first major professional sports franchise in Las Vegas reflects a rapidly evolving view of gaming as an important, mainstream segment of the broader economy that supports 1.7 million jobs and serves as a community partner in 40 states.
Second, the NHL’s decision could open the door for other sports leagues to overcome the long-held concerns about casinos and gambling. Following the NHL’s announcement, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said, “I think the whole ‘you can’t go to Vegas because there are casinos there,’ we passed that by a long time ago; there’s casinos all over the place… I see Las Vegas as a viable alternative. I would not disqualify it just because of the gambling issue.”
Finally, by breaking the Las Vegas dam, the NHL is pouring cold water on the argument that regulated sports betting harms the integrity of sports. ESPN Business Analyst and Sports Illustrated writer Andrew Brandt called the move to Las Vegas “a momentous inflection point in this discussion; it’s something that’s broken the ice.”
Brandt’s comments came during our second annual Gaming Experts Forum in Washington, D.C., an event that shapes gaming policy and perception among critical influencers from across the country. AGA convened congressional staff, media, academic experts and gaming executives at this increasingly popular event, which featured informed, in-depth conversations about the most critical issues we face—and an opportunity to inject gaming’s point of view into the dialogue.
The forum featured sports betting practitioners who demystified sports betting by detailing how the legal, regulated market actually works. Veteran South Point Sports Book Director Jimmy Vaccaro explained how they prevent illicit activity: “If someone comes to the window and he wants to bet $15,000 on a game, then we ask for some identification but he pulls his money back because he doesn’t want to show his ID, we call surveillance and take a picture of him—we have more photos than Kodak.” Others spoke of the technology available that can detect irregular betting patterns—a tool used successfully in Europe today.
From law enforcement and sports leagues to media and academics, it’s become clear among many that the status-quo sports betting policy in the United States isn’t working. Events organized by AGA, such as the Law Enforcement Summit and Gaming Experts Forum, will help to progress this issue in a way that reflects the unsustainability of a massive, thriving illegal sports betting market that is primed to top $150 billion by next year.