Fireworks Expected at Congressional Hearing on Sports Betting This Week


A US congressional hearing on sports betting this Thursday, September 27, will feature some of the same parties who participated in the discussion about the country’s Wire Act.

You might well expect fireworks, as some controversial speakers will be taking part. Among them will be University of Illinois professor John Kindt, who was at the center of the contentious 2015 RAWA hearing. John Bruning of the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling will also testify.

Other speakers include Sara Slane, Senior VP of Public Affairs at the American Gaming Association; Becky Harris, Chair of the Nevada Gaming Control Board; and Jocelyn Moore, Executive VP of Communications and Public Affairs for the National Football League.

Hearing on sports betting

Back in May, the Supreme Court lifted the 1992 sports betting ban. Despite this progress in allowing sports betting into the mainstream and away from the black market, the hearing will feature a group whose principal goal is to ensure that online gambling remains illegal in the United States.

On Thursday, the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations will meet at 10 am local time on Capitol Hill. Former Nebraska Attorney General and Republican Jon Bruning will represent the Coalition to Stop Online Gambling (CSOG) at the hearing. Some industry insiders have angrily complained that the organization has a seat at the table only because of its wealthy members.

Sheldon Adelson’s anti-online poker group will also be present at the debate. Adelson once wrote that he would “spend whatever it takes” to stop gambling from going online. The Coalition to Stop Online Gambling published the following statement on its website: “Three [now four] states have already legalized internet gambling, and many more are actively considering following suit. Given the potential for money laundering, terrorism financing, fraud, and other criminal activity, participation by minors, exploitation of individuals with a gaming addiction, and the impact on jobs and economic activity, Congress must act now to protect American families from predatory internet gambling.”

Emerging betting market

Predictions have shown that the US betting market, currently limited to just a few states, could grow to over $15 billion of revenue annually if all states legalized the activity. According to the American Gaming Association, Americans bet about $150bn per year on sports, and 97% of that money had been handled by illicit and illegal channels until recently.

The legalized and regulated betting channels will not reach that level of revenue without being able to take bets online, especially if they cannot access mobile devices.

In Nevada, where Adelson owns casinos, and in New Jersey, it is unclear where the coalition stands on large-scale internet sports betting, but their position will undoubtedly be announced during Thursday’s hearing.

The CSOG was at the forefront of a campaign to reintroduce the 1961 Wire Act to prevent states from legalizing online gaming and casino gambling. There were discussions over allowing state lotteries to operate despite the ban, but negotiations fell through. It is thought that the coalition could take a similar stance to the one it took towards lotteries when it comes to sports betting given the primary goal of the group is to prevent online casino gambling.

Shifts within sporting communities

The approach has shifted within the sporting community, which had long been opposed to online betting but now supports the activity.

For example, the NFL has long been opposed to legalized betting, but it seems that the league could be open to working with operators to maintain control over betting within its sport. This is especially likely since the casino industry commissioned research showing that the NFL could receive an extra $2.3 billion from sports betting revenue if they were to support it.

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