Concerns with Online Sports Gambling Voiced by the U.S. House Judiciary

Leaders of the online sports betting arena are putting increasing pressure on Congress to legalize the industry, following the U.S. Supreme Court decision to strike down a law previously preventing states from legalizing online gambling. Lawmakers have pushed back, raising concerns about harms to consumers.

During a hearing Thursday, the U.S. House Judiciary Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations Subcommittee questioned representatives of the gambling industry, voicing particular concern for minors and individuals with gambling addictions. The concern stems from the idea that online and mobile sports betting will be accessible from any mobile device, anywhere in a state where the activity is legal.

In the subcommittee hearing, House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va. cited statistics from the U.K., where online sports gambling is legal, noting that roughly 66% of teenagers there feel “bombarded” by advertisements for sports betting.

Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La. also expressed concerns about individuals with gambling addictions, questioning, “How do we prevent [them] from using a credit card as opposed to a debit card because all of a sudden they run up every credit card, they are in over their heads with no way out except to keep playing until they hit it big?”

In the face of the Supreme Court ruling that the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act is unconstitutional, states are not uniformly barred from banning online sports gambling.

As we have previously reported, online sports betting is a major area of contention, with individual states divided in regards to its legalization. In June 2018, the New Jersey legislature passed a sports betting bill, in light of controversy regarding compensation for sports leagues and hesitation from Governor Murphy to sign the bill. In July 2018, Rhode Island climbed aboard, legalizing sports gambling alongside with New Jersey, Delaware, and Nevada.

Gambling industry representatives countered the committee’s concerns, arguing that states are able to effectively regulate the concerns raised without the need for intervention by the federal government. Becky Harris, the chair of the Nevada Gaming Control Board, noted, “Nevada has a comprehensive regulatory structure that has been refined over decades and we have a lot of integrity in our process.”

The pressure on lawmakers will continue as the issue inches forward.

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