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Playing It Safe

Former law enforcement leaders agree: It’s time to repeal federal sports betting ban

Back in April 2015, the American Gaming Association launched its “Stop Illegal Gambling—Play it Safe” initiative to expose the massive illegal gambling market that preys on consumers and siphons vital tax revenue from communities. Shortly thereafter, we formed the Illegal Gambling Advisory Board to guide our efforts. After all, who better than the foremost law enforcement leaders to inform this initiative?

We are incredibly fortunate for their insights and expertise, and earlier this summer, members of the board led a first-ever Law Enforcement Summit in Washington to focus on the specific issue of illegal sports betting. Given the very serious competing priorities law enforcement personnel face, we hoped to have a dozen or so people in the room. Instead, nearly 35 law enforcement leaders from every level—federal, state, county, local—made a point to be part of the discussion about the $150 billion illegal market. To me, that was a clear sign that sports betting is an issue that can no longer be ignored.

Following the Summit, the board put together “Law Enforcement Summit on Illegal Sports Betting: After-Action Report,” which draws the following conclusions:

1) The Current U.S. Approach to Sports Betting Is Failing. Under the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), federal law largely prohibits sports betting outside Nevada. Instead of curbing illegal betting, the law has driven sports betting underground, creating a thriving, $150 billion-$450 billion illegal market with no consumer protections, no tax benefits for communities and no safeguards for sport integrity.

2) Illegal Sports Betting Fuels Criminal Enterprises. Under PASPA, hundreds of billions in illegal sports betting proceeds are funneled to criminal enterprises and used to finance a range of criminal activity. This illicit activity drains law enforcement resources, hindering their ability to fight crime and protect our nation’s citizens.

3) Open, Transparent, Regulated Sports Betting System Boosts Law Enforcement Oversight. A regulated sports betting system aids law enforcement efforts and can protect consumers. The United Kingdom and other international markets demonstrate how legal, regulated sports betting can create a powerful partnership between the gaming industry, the leagues and law enforcement. This transparent system provides effective tools to monitor, investigate and shut down illegal activity.

4) States Must Play a Central Role. The federal ban on sports betting interferes with states’ traditional role in regulating gambling. And unfortunately, due to the current law, states lack key tools to protect consumers.

5) Time to Repeal Federal Sports Betting Ban. Many law enforcement leaders believe it is time to reconsider the national ban on sports betting and allow states to determine if they wish to regulate this form of wagering.

As we make the case to Congress why PASPA is failing and should be repealed, no voice is stronger than law enforcement’s. Once campaign season ends and Congress digs into a slew of legislative issues, AGA will lead a broad coalition of stakeholders in mounting a full-court press with legislators.

More and more voices are joining this campaign, from mayors across the country to state legislators who want their states to have the choice to offer safe, regulated sports betting.

Broadcasters and advertisers have every reason to support legalized sports betting, as recent Nielsen Sports research shows. In September in Las Vegas, former NBA Commissioner David Stern explained why it’s a win for sports leagues and players, too.

As I said after the 3rd Circuit ruled against New Jersey, it’s Congress’ responsibility to fix the failed law that it created nearly 25 years ago. We plan to make sure that happens.

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