Sports Betting Hearing to Have CSIG Anti-Online Gambling Group

Sports Betting Hearing US House of Representatives

Thursday’s hearing on sports betting will be overshadowed by the Kavanaugh hearings, but it is a pivotal day for US sport gambling laws in the Post-PASPA era.

A spokesman for the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling (CSIG), a lobbying group formed by Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson in 2014, will be at the Thursday sports betting hearing held by a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee.

The hearing, which was named Post-PASPA: An Examination of Sports Betting in America, will be the biggest hearing for the gambling industry on Capitol Hill in almost three years. Most of the groups designated to speak at Post-PASPA either have an anti-gambling stance or they hope the federal government regulates gambling, so it could be a bad day for proponents of state-level sports betting laws.

No group can be expected to present a more anti-gambling stance than CSIG. When he formed CSIG in 2014, Sheldon Adelson vowed to pay “whatever it takes” to assure online gambling was banned in the United States. Adelson said he was concerned about problem gamblers, while citing his grandchildren’s savvy with computers when discussing the dangers of youth gambling on the Internet.

Sheldon Adelson, ranked as the 21st wealthiest person in the United States, bankrolled the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling to seek a ban on online gambling in 50 states through its advocacy of Restore America’s Wire Act (RAWA), which was sponsored by U.S. Senator Lindsay Graham and former U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz in the United States Congress.

The CSIG also lobbied governments in Pennsylvania and Michigan in attempts to keep those states from legalizing online gambling.

Jon Bruning to Speak at Sportsbook Hearing

Those efforts failed in Pennsylvania, but so far have succeeded in Michigan. On Thursday, the lobbying group sends a new spokesman: Jon Bruning, a former Republican governor of Nebraska, who plans to represent the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling at the hearing.

Despite the failure of anti-online gambling legislation in the halls of Congress, the CSIG website continues to call for a ban on online gambling. The CSIG site says, “Three 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.”

CSIG Skews Its Arguments vs. Online Gambling

The quote is a bit out of date. Pennsylvania passed legislation in October 2017 to become the fourth U.S. state to legalize online gambling. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board is taking applications for online casino and poker websites at the moment, with several gaming companies already approved for each.

The Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling’s website is inaccurate in other ways. Legal and licensed online casinos and poker sites in New Jersey, the state with the biggest legal online gambling industry, requires sites to use advanced age verification software. Licensed online gaming sites have much better protections than unlicensed online casinos and card rooms, which is what the CSIG advocates for when it calls for a 50-state ban.

Why Licensed Is Better Than Unlicensed

Unlicensed online betting sites also have the lack of transparency that could lead to money laundering, terrorism financing, fraud, and criminal activity. Licensed online betting sites are run like any other business, with transparency and accountability to state regulators. Licensed sites have consumer protections, problem gambling resources and hotlines, panic buttons, and self-exclusion lists.

Yet the CSIG wants the U.S. government to push all American gaming activity into the underground. Such a policy would leave American gamblers unprotected, just as the policy would rob state governments of hundreds of millions — perhaps billions — of dollars in tax revenues.

Groups Testifying at Judicial Subcommittee Hearing

The NFL, the American Gaming Association (AGA), and the Nevada Gaming Control Board also plan to testify at the hearing. The National Football League had been a committed opponent of sportsbook gambling in the past decades and was a leader among the sports associations which sued New Jersey in Murphy v. NCAA (originally Christie v. NCAA), the landmark Supreme Court case which ended the federal ban on sports betting.

The NFL has reversed course since the May 14 decision. Last month, an NFL committee approved sponsorships between football franchises and casinos which have sports betting. The Dallas Cowboys signed a partnership deal with the WinStar World Casino, the world’s largest casino, which is located an hour’s drive north of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.

NFL’s Position on Sports Betting

The NFL also approved the Oakland Raiders’ move to Las Vegas, which will happen in 2020 when a $1.8 billion modern sports stadium opens in the city. The NFL approved gaming companies buying naming rights on NFL-owned stadium, which stoked speculation that the Las Vegas stadium one day would carry the name of a casino company.

Despite the seeming reversal, the NFL’s appearance might not be altogther welcome for the sports betting industry. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell backs federal sportsbook regulations, a 50-state plan which would take power out of the hands of state regulators.

American Gaming Association

The American Gaming Association (AGA) represents a cross-section of U.S. gaming interests. While it might be expected to back the sportsbook industry, its board of directors includes representatives from most of the major Las Vegas companies, including MGM Resorts, Wynn Resorts, Caesars Entertainment, and Las Vegas Sands.

The AGA took a neutral stance on online gambling, because Caesars and MGM Resorts support online gambling, while Las Vegas Sands and, to a lesser extent, Wynn Resorts, traditionally oppose Internet competition.

Nevada Gaming Control Board

The Nevada Gaming Control Board will present the case from the perspective of casino operators which own sportsbooks. Nevada has been the destination of single-game sports bets over the past 25 years.

Of course, even the NGCB might have an ambivalent attitude towards the newly-open sports betting situation in America. Having had a monopoly over sports betting for decades, Nevada’s officials cannot be expected to speak for new rivals in New Jersey, Delaware, West Virginia, and Mississippi.