Freeman, AGA Keep Up Press for Sports Betting

As the AGA held a town-hall meeting of law enforcement leaders to promote legal sports betting, its president, Geoff Freeman (l.), used the newly awarded Las Vegas NHL franchise to illustrate outdated federal policy on the subject.

Freeman: Illegal sports betting funds crime

The American Gaming Association and its president and CEO, Geoff Freeman, kept up the pressure for repeal of the federal ban on sports betting on several fronts last week.

First, the AGA hosted more than 30 leading law enforcement officials from across the country in its first Law Enforcement Summit, a town hall-style discussion during which Freeman outlined the scope of the massive illegal sports betting market. Next, Freeman touched on the subject at an industry conference hosted by supplier AGS.

Finally, Freeman used the occasion of the NHL’s awarding of a franchise to Las Vegas to issue a press release noting that the arrival of professional sports in the gambling capital should illustrate how outdated the stands of the federal government and the National Football League are the relationship between sports betting and game integrity.

At the AGA summit, law enforcement officials discussed the problem of the illegal sports betting market, noting that legalization and regulation is the obvious solution. Freeman said input from the summit will be used by the AGA’s Illegal Gambling Advisory Board to author a guide to solutions for policymakers, regulators and sports leagues.

“The illegal sports betting market is a growing problem, and no group is more credible in carrying that message and identifying a solution than members of law enforcement,” Freeman said. “Today’s summit highlighted that the illegal sports betting market funds large criminal enterprises and fails to protect the integrity of the sports we all love. It’s time for a modernized approach that will support law enforcement around the country.”

“The reality is that illegal sports betting is a growing and dangerous problem,” said one of the summit attendees, former Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis. “The scope is massive—hundreds of billions of dollars—and shows up on every street corner. We need to look at the utility of a regulated, transparent sports betting market. Let’s face it, demand is only rising. Consumers would rather do this in a regulated market that provides consumer protections, integrity of the game, and I would rather have certainty and transparency. It’s easier to maintain public safety in that type of environment.”

Davis, who also is a member of the AGA’s gambling advisory board, was joined by officials from the FBI, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, International Association of Chiefs of Police and several other law enforcement organizations at the summit.

Freeman carried the drive for the repeal of the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA)—the 1992 law that bans sports betting in all but four grandfathered states—to “Game ON,” a customer conference held last week in Miami Beach by slot and table-game supplier AGS. At that event, Freeman predicted that sports betting will be legal in the next three to five years, as long as the industry works together.

“Consumer demand is higher than ever (for sports betting),” Freeman said at Game ON. “The potential for regulated sports betting is huge,” he said, noting that 97 percent of all sports bets made in the U.S. are currently illegal, producing more than $150 billion that is currently used for “nefarious activities” that actually threaten the integrity of games.

Freeman’s Game ON presentation came the same day the National Hockey League announced the award of a franchise to Las Vegas. The following day, the AGA released a press release/op-ed piece written by Freeman linking the two subjects.

“An NHL team in Las Vegas is a win for Nevada, a win for casino gaming and a win for fans,” Freeman wrote. “?The ramifications of this move are many. First, the placement of the first major professional sports franchise in Las Vegas reflects a rapidly evolving view of gaming as an important, mainstream segment of the broader economy that supports 1.7 million jobs and serves as a community partner in 40 states. It’s an industry that garners a 90 percent approval rating from American voters, something politicians can only dream of.? ?When you look at all the markets where professional sports and casinos co-exist—and where they actually work together as partners in their communities—any concerns are wildly overblown and not based on fact.

“In the NFL, more than 80 percent of teams play home games within a one-hour drive of a casino. In the NHL, just look at Tampa Bay and New York and Philadelphia and Columbus and Pittsburgh and Detroit and St. Louis and many more to find cities where teams and casinos co-exist. It’s the same across Major League Baseball and the NBA. Further, if players’ access to sports betting is a concern, then consider this: 100 percent of professional athletes are within reach of illegal online sports betting sites.?..

“The league’s decision (to add Las Vegas) is just the latest signal that professional sports leagues are increasingly comfortable with legal, regulated sports betting and recognize the integrity benefits it brings. Over the last several months, every major sports league commissioner has expressed a significant shift in their views of sports betting. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has been the most outspoken on this issue, saying, ‘if all that betting is going on anyway, I think it should be legal; I think it should be regulated; it should be transparent to the league.’

“If sports leagues are concerned with the integrity of games, then Las Vegas is the best place for a team to play. As we’ve seen in Nevada and in Europe, a legal, regulated sports betting market brings much-needed transparency in order to spot suspicious activity. Yet in most of the United States, Americans bet at least $150 billion a year through bookies and illegal, and often offshore, websites. Nothing threatens the integrity of sports more than the illegal sports betting marketplace.”