Sports Betting Hearing: Gaming Industry Warns Congress Too Many Regulations Will Propel Underground Bookies

Posted on: September 27, 2018, 05:00h. 

Last updated on: September 27, 2018, 11:45h.

Sports betting was the topic of discussion at today’s hearing in the House of Representatives’ Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations, and gaming industry experts testified that an overly regulated market will only allow underground and offshore illegal sportsbooks to thrive.

sports betting hearing Sara Slane
Gaming lobbyist Sara Slane testified before House Judiciary subcommittee chair Jim Sensenbrenner that sports betting will not be feasible if it’s unnecessarily regulated. (Image: House Judiciary Committee/

Five witnesses provided their respective expertise, and opinions, to the House subcommittee.

Critics to the liberalization of sports betting following the Supreme Court’s May decision to strike down the federal ban issued threats on the dangers of expanded gambling and mobile betting. NFL spokeswoman Jocelyn Moore expressed concerns that widespread legal sports gambling jeopardizes the integrity of sports.

On the contrary, American Gaming Association Senior VP of Public Affairs Sara Slane and Nevada Gaming Control Board Chair Becky Harris divulged their opinions on why a properly regulated market is in the best interest of the leagues, gamblers, and federal and state governments. Specifically, the two told the subcommittee that states opting to legalize sports betting should refer to Nevada’s gold standard, which has been regulating sportsbooks for decades.

“AGA does not believe an additional layer of federal regulatory oversight is needed,” Slane declared. “Just as Congress has refrained from regulating lotteries, slot machines, table games, and other gambling products, it should leave sports betting oversight to the states and tribes that are closest to the market.”

Feds Step Aside

The hearing was a result of Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Chuck Schumer (D-New York) saying a federal framework should be created to form a unified regulatory environment. Schumer believes it’s imperative for “the federal government to take a leadership role and provide the necessary guidance to prevent uncertainty and confusion for the leagues, state governments, and fans alike.”

Harris said protecting the integrity of sports is of utmost concern, and that’s why regulated books are in everyone’s best interest.

“Sports betting scandals are more likely to occur in illegal markets where there is no regulatory responsibility, where monitoring betting patterns is of no concern, and were line movements may not matter,” Nevada’s chief gaming regulator testified.

Harris added that states would be wise to consider Nevada’s sports betting regulations, which can “help guide other jurisdictions through this historical time.” She concluded that state gambling regulators are more than equipped to oversee sports betting without additional federal governance.

Bettors Want Better Odds

Subcommittee Chair Jim Sensenbrenner (D-Wisconsin) asked the panel, “If I were running around with a fistful of money that I wanted to bet, where would I go when the illegal sportsbook is offering all of these other goodies that a legal sportsbook cannot?”

Slane responded, “You hit the nail on the head. Sports betting is a low margin business, so in order for us to compete with the illegal market there has to be the policies in place that allow us to offer competitive odds and drive traffic to our legal sites.”

Slane added that 70 percent of bettors who currently access illegal sportsbooks say they would gamble on legal sites if the odds were the same. The AGA rep finished by stating overburdensome tax rates and an unneeded federal regulatory layer will prevent sportsbook from offering odds that compete with those found on illegal books.

At the end of the hearing, Rep. Sensenbrenner strangely concluded, “I think all of you can agree, is that for Congress to do nothing is the worst possible alternative. So, we have some work to do.”

He then adjourned the sports betting hearing.