Law Enforcement Joins Coalition to End Sports Gambling Ban

For the last 25 years Americans have been breaking the law; spending hundreds of billions of dollars gambling on sports illegally. The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), which was intended to protect the integrity of our nation’s sporting events and consumers from the evils of gambling, has clearly failed. Instead, it created an enormous black market that has left consumers vulnerable to crime and stripped the states of their right to regulate and tax this type of commerce within their own borders. This week, the American Gaming Association (AGA) launched a new coalition with one mission: end the unconstitutional ban on legal sports betting.

A lot has changed since Congress enacted PASPA in 1992. Almost every state now has some form of legalized gambling, we’ve elected a former casino owner as our 45th President, and nearly 6 in 10 Americans now favor lifting the federal prohibition on sports gambling. Gambling isn’t the boogey man it once was and AGA’s American Sports Betting Coalition hopes that political and social environment is ripe for change.

Members of the new coalition include former heads of the FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, state attorneys general, police commissioners, sheriffs, and state lawmakers. For them, this is a matter of federalism—freeing the states to enact the best legislation for their constituents—and consumer protection.

“The rampant illegal sports betting that currently exists continues to fuel other criminal activities and provides no consumer protections. States should be able to determine for themselves how to address the issue,” said Brad Schimel, attorney general of Wisconsin.

Not only would repealing PASPA rightfully return the power to regulate intrastate gambling to state legislatures, generate much needed tax revenue, and help law enforcement go after truly criminal outfits, but it would also protect the integrity of sports games, according to the coalition.

 “Big Government’s 1992 sports betting prohibition has failed to protect sports, fans and communities,” said Geoff Freeman, president and CEO of the American Gaming Association. “Regulated sports betting is what fans want and sports integrity demands.”   

An op-ed authored by Freeman, Ed Davis (the former Commissioner of the Boston Police Department) and Tim Murphy (former FBI Deputy Director), argues that legalizing sports gambling is actually the best way to protect sports integrity. That is because modern data analysis technology can track betting patterns and identify signs of corruption. In Europe, where sports gambling has long been legal, the leagues and authorities work with the gambling industry, relying on bookies as their early warning system for games that might be rigged. “[A]n open, transparent, regulated betting market takes sports betting out of the shadows, making it easier for law enforcement to protect the public and choke off money flowing into criminal organizations,” they wrote.

The loudest opposition to legalized sports betting has come from the sports leagues like the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) and the National Football League (NFL). However, many within the leagues have changed their tune in recent years. For many years, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has called for sports betting legalization.  MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred recently admitted his league is “revisiting” their stance on sports gambling. Even the NFL seems to be softening its position, recently approving the Oakland Raiders move to Las Vegas, Nevada—the only state that allows sports betting. When asked if the league was worried about a major football team being in such close proximity to sports betting, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell noted they weren’t concerned because of the “regulatory environment there, which actually could be beneficial in this case.”

It seems the leagues and even players unions finally recognize that protecting the reputation of their industry is their responsibility—not Congress’s and not the American taxpayers’. The launch of this new coalition can capitalize on the unprecedented support and, perhaps, finally convince Congress to repeal this counterproductive, unfair, and unconstitutional prohibition that should have never been enacted in the first place.