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Legal US sports betting options key to integrity

The president of the peak industry gambling body in the US has told a US Senate inquiry that a framework of legal online sports betting sites is critical to the integrity of US sports and the protection of athletes.

American Gaming Association (AGA) President and CEO Bill Miller was testifying before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on how the legal, regulated sports betting market ensures game and wager integrity, protects collegiate and professional athletes, and helps detect suspicious wagering and unlawful activity.

“The protection of the integrity of competition is central to the interests of the entire sports betting ecosystem,” testified Miller.

“The federal prohibition on sports betting was a failed endeavor that we shouldn’t replicate. Instead, we should work together to further eliminate the pervasive illegal market, and support experienced regulators whose oversight protects the interests and integrity of all involved.”

In his testimony, Miller reiterated that the only way to protect athletes and competition from corruption is through continued legalization. “Nobody has a greater vested interest in avoiding scandal than legal gaming operators.

In fact, licensed sportsbooks in Nevada have historically been the first to uncover match fixing, identifying irregular betting patterns and alerting regulators,” he said.

Miller encouraged Congress to consider increasing the maximum federal penalty for match-fixing and repeal the federal excise tax on sports wagers, which puts US legal sportsbooks at a competitive disadvantage.

Legal sports betting in America has greatly expanded since the Supreme Court declared the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, or PASPA, unconstitutional in May 2018. This important ruling enabled states and sovereign tribal nations to decide whether to legalize and regulate sports betting within their jurisdictions.

Since the prohibition was overturned, 22 states and the District of Columbia have authorized sports betting. In fact, only three states have not made moves to legalize sports betting.

Since that ruling, the American gaming industry has remained focused on getting sports betting right. Working with state and tribal leaders, we continue to prioritize consumer protection, robust oversight, and unlocking vital economic resources.

Americans have been betting on sports as long as there have been sports to bet on. Under PASPA, an estimated $150 billion a year was wagered illegally. Clearly, the federal prohibition did not eliminate sports betting, it only managed to drive it underground.

Illegal gambling operations fuel other criminal activities, and lack protections for consumers, athletes, competitions, and the bets placed on them. Thankfully, legal options, operating under state and tribal regulatory oversight, are enhancing transparency, consumer protections, and game integrity.

More Americans now have access to legal sports betting than ever before, yet the illegal US sports betting market continues to thrive, driven in part by continued restrictions and widespread confusion about the legality of easy-to-access offshore sites.

Since May 2018, bettors have legally wagered nearly $22 billion on sports nationwide, generating more than $195 million in tax revenue to state and local governments.

Nationwide, the amount wagered – known as handle – in 2019 was nearly double that of 2018, going from $6.6 billion to $13 billion. Before the COVID-19 pandemic brought American sports betting to a near halt in mid-March, 2020 was set to become another record-breaking year, with similar percentage year-over-year gains in January and February ($3.5 billion legally wagered, up from $1.9 billion the same time last year).

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