The call from state-level US sports betting regulators to the Department of Justice to tighten the clamps on offshore sportsbooks is growing louder.
The Michigan Gaming Control Board announced this week executive director Henry Williams sent a letter to US Attorney General Merrick Garland asking the agency to make tackling offshore sportsbooks and online casinos a priority. Six other US sports betting state regulators also signed the letter from Michigan.
“In Michigan, strict laws and rules govern internet gaming and sports betting and provide consumer protections, promote confidence and ensure fair and honest gaming,” Williams said. “We are willing to help the US Department of Justice in any way we can as it pursues enforcement of US laws against offshore illegal gaming enterprises that take advantage of our citizens.”
Feds run point on sports betting law
The letter detailed the threats offshore gambling presents and explained the state regulators cannot handle them alone. Chief among the dangers are no guarantees of fair payouts for customers and no controls to prevent money laundering.
Other dangers include no age verification to protect minors and a lack of responsible gaming practices. They also noted the loss of state taxes from sports betting revenue.
The other states signing Williams’s letter are:
US state regulators “proud of the work”
While they asked for federal support, the letter also explained the regulators are “proud of the work they do to protect the public.”
“State regulators like the MGCB ensure operators offer products that pass technical standards and testing, and we also require operators to comply with reporting requirements,” Williams said. “Offshore operators flaunt state regulations and offer products that do not protect the public, which greatly concerns me and my fellow state regulators.”
Despite regulatory work at a state level, illegal offshore gambling sites persist and even thrive. The letter asks for the US DOJ to address the issue and determine some form of enforcement against unregulated sites.
The last major federal action against offshores happened in October 2020 when the DOJ reached a $46 million settlement with 5Dimes as the operator attempted to whitewash its reputation with an eye on the regulated US market.
Not the first call to US DOJ
Last year, the American Gaming Association sent a letter to Garland asking for a federal crackdown. That letter included naming major offshore sportsbooks, including Bovada.
The AGA hopes a crackdown would help the American public learn more about the illegal operations. The ask comes as some US media continue to promote offshore sportsbooks.
“While prosecutions and convictions may be difficult to secure, the AGA firmly believes the Department can make a strong and meaningful statement by investigating and indicting the largest offshore operations that openly violate federal and state laws,” the AGA letter reads.
The DOJ has hit gambling before, including a 2011 takedown of online poker.