The American Gaming Association (AGA) has called for a federal crackdown on offshore sportsbooks.
The AGA on Thursday published a letter sent to the US Department of Justice and Attorney General Merrick Garland.
In it, the casino group warned the offshore US sports betting market had grown to a level that now required “significant federal attention.”
What was in AGA letter?
The letter named three offshore operators as well-known brands “readily accessible to every American with a smart phone.”
Bovada alone accounted for 50% of all sports betting searches in states like Florida, the AGA said. The letter continued:
“These illegal sites enjoy many competitive advantages that allow them to offer better odds and promotions and ignore any commitment to responsible gaming because they do not pay state and federal taxes or have comparable regulatory compliance costs and obligations.”
What’s the problem with offshore books?
AGA president Bill Miller said offshore shops “preyed on vulnerable customers” and offered no consumer protections.
Customers who self-exclude from legal US sportsbooks also often end up at illegal books, Miller said. There’s also the risk of an operator simply absconding with customer funds.
“Illegal operators have been put on notice,” Miller added. “Their days as a scourge on our nation are numbered.”
DOJ or bust?
The letter said the DOJ was the only law enforcement entity that could “credibly address” the offshore problem.
The AGA explained:
“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.”
They’ve done it before …
The DOJ is no stranger to gambling crackdowns. It was the driving force behind Black Friday, which essentially killed US online poker back in 2011.
The AGA said enforcement action would help inform the American public about which books are legal. It would also prompt businesses to “ensure they are not supporting [offshore operators.]”
That said, the DOJ might have bigger fish to fry at present than offshore sportsbooks.
Maybe offshore books aren’t the problem?
As ever, the subject of offshore sportsbooks prompted some strong rebuttals. Circa Sports sportsbook manager Jeffrey Benson suggested the AGA focus on creating a more competitive regulated market so consumers do not feel a need to go offshore.
Indeed, many states have no legal sports betting options at all, meaning people have no regulated choices.
As a result, recent search data from Google showed interest in offshore sportsbooks falls significantly as states regulate sports betting.