Law Enforcement Officials To Congress: Repeal Sports Betting Prohibition

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A group of law enforcement officials released a report via the American Gaming Association, advocating for a repeal of the federal law that bans sports betting in most of the US.

The top-level takeaways on sports betting

The report, from the AGA-formed Illegal Gambling Advisory Board, can be seen here. The key takeaway was that the current federal law — the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act — has been a failure.

That meshes with messaging the AGA has been pushing over the last year as it advocates for legal and regulated sports betting in the US. All of the 

The board is led by chair Tim Murphy, former deputy director for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who said the group was in agreement on what needs to happen next.

“The current approach to sports betting in the United States is not working; instead, it’s fueling criminal enterprises,” Murphy said. “The time has come to repeal the current sports betting ban and replace it with rigorous regulations that benefit states, protect consumers and maintain the integrity of the games.”

Recommendations on sports betting from the panel

The panel, which met in June to talk about sports betting in the US, reached five conclusions.

“We wanted to make sure we had a full grasp of the problem, and wanted to get perspectives from current law enforcement, and also those that are working in an the space in and out of law enforcement, and also around the world,” Murphy said, who went on to list the wide range of law enforcement officials that attended the summit and contributed to the report.

The current US approach to sports betting is not working

This has been a cornerstone of the AGA approach to sports betting. Instead of being a “prohibition,” PASPA has largely driven sports betting underground.

That black market is estimated to be between $150 and $500 billion, which many would agree would constitute an ineffective ban.

“It did create this minimum $150 billion market, with no consumer protections, no tax benefits for communities, and just no safeguards for the integrity of sports,” Murphy said.

Illegal sports betting fuels criminal enterprises under PASPA

The report said that a lot of the money from sports betting is used by criminal enterprises to finance a range of criminal activity.

Ed Davis, a board member and former Boston police commissioner, said he spent a lot of time investigating organized crime while in the trenches.

“I can tell you illegal sports betting was the grease that caused that machine to function,” Davis said. “They were assured of a routine and very substantial amount of money coming in in every week.”

An open, transparent, regulated sports betting market boosts law enforcement oversight

Put simply, the amount of problems that Nevada, the UK and other regulated international markets have surrounding sports betting is relatively small. That’s in addition to the additional insight and data that a regulated market provides over an unregulated one in terms of deal with game integrity, and integrity of those taking bets.

“There’s just no criminal activity associated with it (sports betting in Nevada),” said Bill Young, the former sheriff of Clark County, Nevada.

States must play a central role in sports betting regulation moving forward

The report notes that the federal ban on sports betting interferes with states’ traditional role in regulating gambling.

” We all know that the federal government cannot be the be-all and end-all,” said J.B. Van Hollen, former Attorney General for Wisconsin. “From the founding of our country, local governments, state governments were given the power and authority for police powers to protect their citizens from criminal activities and also from consumer fraud.

“Right now under PASPA, as it sits, the states do not have the ability to do that.”

PASPA should be repealed

The bigger takeaway, with all the above considered? The starting point for sports betting moving forward in the US needs to be the repeal of PASPA.

“Many leaders from all parts of the world law enforcement and professional sports believe it’s time to reconsider the national ban and allow states to decide wither to legvalize and regulate, just like we do with all other forms of gambling, ” Young said.

What’s next for sports betting efforts in the US?

The creation of the IGAB and its subsequent report come in advance of a planned lobbying effort in Congress in 2017.

The report from law enforcement officials — and their presence moving forward in lobbying efforts — appears to be the best tool at the AGA’s disposal as it moves ahead with its advocacy efforts.

“No voice is more important than law enforcement to make clear the perils of a thriving illegal sports betting market – and why prohibition is failing,” said Geoff Freeman, president and CEO of the AGA. “The Illegal Gambling Advisory Board makes a compelling case that will capture the interest of lawmakers on Capitol Hill and demonstrate why it’s time for legislative action.”

Freeman noted that grass-roots advocacy — people who simply want to bet on sports in a regulated and transparent market — will be part of the push, as well.

“I give tremendous credit to the folks in daily fantasy sports that were successful in engaging the customer, and creating an environment where policymakers were willing to listen,” Freeman said, noting lobbying and advocacy efforts that resulted in a variety of DFS laws being passed in 2016. “And I think it’s incumbent upon us to do the same thing on this issue.”