MGM CEO: ‘Give American Public What It Wants’ On Sports Betting

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MGM Murren sports betting

MGM Resorts International CEO Jim Murren renewed his call for legalized and regulated sports betting in the US during recent comments ahead of the opening of MGM Grand Harbor.

Murren: Times and opinions on sports betting have changed

Murren was asked about sports betting during at an appearance at the National Press Club, just before the opening of MGM’s newest resort and casino in the Washington, D.C., area. Specifically, the questioner asked if the new administration of President-elect Donald Trump improves the prospects for legal sports betting.

Murren was fairly non-committal on the direct question, saying “I hope so.”

Like much of the casino industry, Murren advocates for the government to regulate sports betting everywhere in the US. Currently, single-game wagering only takes place in Nevada, with limited forms of wagering in a few other states.

Murren touched on the changing opinion on the proliferation of sports betting both within his industry and in the public:

“Our view on this is, look, we’ve changed. This idea that sports betting somehow needs to be regulated in one state and illegal everywhere else really doesn’t reflect what’s happening today.

I built a beautiful new arena and we got the first professional sports team, it’s moving to Las Vegas… in 2017. How cool is that? Professional sports in Las Vegas, that would have been unheard of five or ten years ago. And there will be other sports teams over time. And people love to bet on sports and they love their daily fantasy sports.”

Regulation needed on sports betting

Murren went on to say that regulation of sports betting should be the path forward, and that he would continue to advocate for it.

To drive this all in the underground, and wish it away, or don’t allow it to be transparent and regulated is wrong. And I am going to work with the American Gaming Association and my colleagues on this.

And not everyone agrees with me on this topic. But my view is — and I hope to speak to the President-elect and to Congress on these topics — let’s regulate, and let’s be consistent in our regulation and give the American public what it wants, which is this transparent and seamless connectivity between bricks-and-mortar gaming and other forms of gaming that are completely safe, if they’re regulated…’

That meshes with the AGA’s plan to start lobbying Congress as soon as early 2017.

Murren also appears to allude to online gambling

Murren appeared to start conflating sports betting and gambling online, to some extent, in the above comments, via the “seamless connectivity” phrase.

Online gambling is a bit of a trickier issue for the AGA and the casino industry. The AGA has been neutral on iGaming, even as Murren and others in the industry advocate for its legalization. That mostly has to do with the stance of Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson, who vehemently opposes iGaming.

The issue has been a flashpoint in Nevada of late. A letter from ten state attorneys general asked the incoming Trump administration to ban online gambling at the federal level. That letter was signed by Nevada AG Adam Laxalt, a move that disappointed state officials like Gov. Brian Sandoval as well as Congresswoman Dina Titus. (The latter penned a letter to the Trump transition team on iGaming, as well.)

MGM also recently expanded its offering of online casino tournaments to anyone in the state of Nevada.

MGM’s stance on sports betting not a surprise

That Murren would continue to support sports betting, of course, is not a surprise. The AGA, of which MGM is a member, has made sports betting its signature issue.

MGM would be one of the companies that would stand to benefit the most from the widespread legalization of sports betting. MGM now owns 100 percent interest in the Borgata in New Jersey. It also has active or coming casinos in Mississippi, Michigan, Maryland, Illinois and Massachusetts.

New Jersey has actively sought a way to have sports betting within its borders. Mississippi has also eyed legal sports betting.

Murren did stay away from taking any potshots at daily fantasy sports, after calling the activity gambling on more than one occasion.

Image credit: Photo by Maryland GovPics used under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.