The gaming industry’s largest trade group said Wednesday it will spend 2016 determining if “a rational alternative” exists to the nation’s current sports wagering laws, which legally allows the activity to take place in just four states.
In a statement, the Washington, D.C.-based American Gaming Association issued several recommendations while calling for “a major shift” in the casino industry’s position on sports wagering. The alternatives include “strict regulation, rigorous consumer protections and (providing) robust tools for law enforcement” to crack down on illegal sports gambling.
The group did not call for an out-and-out legalization of sports betting, but said its 2016 effort would include research, communications activities and creating partnerships with groups interested in sports betting. The AGA plans to include gaming leaders, law enforcement officials, regulators, legislators and professional sports leagues in the discussion.
The AGA did not address Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), which was enacted in 1992 and limits sports wagering to four states — Nevada, Oregon, Delaware and Montana. However, Nevada is the only state with full-scale sports books.
The organization has focused recent efforts on combating illegal sports gambling, which it estimated was a $138.9 billion industry nationwide that funds criminal activities.
MGM Resorts International Chairman Jim Murren, who serves as chairman of the AGA board, said unregulated sports betting is more of a threat to Nevada’s casino industry than the legalization of sports betting in other states.
“I’m confident that the entertainment experience we provide in Las Vegas, which is unmatched anywhere else in the world, can continue to excel even as our country takes a fresh look at our approach to sports betting,” Murren said.
The change in the AGA’s stance came after discussions with casino operators across the country, gaming industry suppliers and sports book operators in Nevada. The AGA created a Sports Betting Task Force, which unanimously agreed that current sports betting law is not achieving its intended result.
“The casino gaming industry is aligned that the status quo is unsustainable,” said AGA President Geoff Freeman. “We look forward to working with law enforcement, sports leagues and other interested parties to consider effective approaches to protecting consumers and the integrity of sports.
Freeman said the AGA members will also seek legal clarity on daily fantasy sports.
On Tuesday, New York’s attorney general ruled daily fantasy sports was illegal gambling and ordered the two largest websites to immediately stop accepting wagers in the state. The moves comes a month after the Nevada Gaming Control Board issued a “cease and desist” order to the daily fantasy sports sites, saying the activity was the definition of sports wagering under state law.
Freeman said at the recent Global Gaming Expo that daily fantasy sports was “a gray area” and the trade organization wants to make it a black or white issue. If if daily fantasy sports are legal, the casino gaming industry should have the opportunity to participate, he said.
“The gaming industry wishes to see this product succeed and to partner where appropriate,” Freeman wrote in a separate statement to the gaming industry Wednesday. “State-by-state legal clarity and consumer protections are necessary prerequisites for daily fantasy’s success and future collaborations between our industries.”
Legalizing sports betting in the U.S. is been a hot conversation topic for more than a year. It was a discussion subject within the walls of the casino industry long before National Basketball Association Commissioner Adam Silver became the first head of major sports league to voice a softening approach toward the activity. In a New York Times op-ed piece a year ago, Silver wrote the NBA should reconsider its opposition to legal sports wagering.
New Jersey wants to allow regulated sports books in Atlantic City casinos and the state’s racetracks. But the effort has been derailed by the courts. Lawmakers in California, Indiana, Minnesota, New York, South Carolina and Texas have introduced sports betting legislation this year.
In Nevada, the amount of money wagered on sports by casino customers has increased in each of the past five years. In 2014, gamblers wagered $3.9 billion on sports, an increase of 7.7 percent over 2013.