AGA lauds feds’ offshore crackdown efforts

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The US government is stepping up enforcement of crackdowns on unregulated offshore gaming sites, a move gaming advocacy groups lauded Monday during an industry conference.

LAS VEGAS- American Gaming Association officials commended the federal government’s efforts to enforce prohibitions on illegal, unregulated offshore gaming sites. There has been a solid response from the US Department of Justice, AGA Vice President Casey Clark said during Monday’s Global Gaming Expo conference, as the industry looks to make meaningful moves on unlicensed operators.

The AGA formally pushed the DOJ to better prohibit unregulated online as well as in-person gaming in a public letter published earlier this year. A bipartisan group of members of Congress also pushed the Justice Department in a letter published this summer.

“We received a formulaic response as you’d expect because there’s a lot going on the Justice Department these days,” Clark said Monday. “But we have had a lot of opportunities to engage with the FBI and we’re taking this as a real opportunity to engage. I think we’re going to see much more enforcement.”

Cracking down on illegal gaming operations has been a major priority for the AGA. Though legal online sports betting and casino gaming has grown in recent years, with more than 30 states with some form of legal sportsbooks and six with digital casino gaming, industry officials estimate the majority of digital gaming is still conducted through unlicensed operators.

“While the challenge of illegal gambling is not new, the brazen and coordinated manner in which it occurs—both online and in communities—has elevated this problem to a level that requires significant federal attention,” AGA President and CEO Bill Miller wrote in an April letter. “We urge the Department to make it a priority to act…to protect American consumers, crack down on illegal operators, and enforce federal regulations.”

Legal industry supporters have noted that not only are these offerings illegal, they also can hurt American customers. Sports bettors or iCasino players on unlicensed sites have no guarantee that their wagers will be honored or that they’ll receive payments.

AGA Vice President Casey Clark: “We have had a lot of opportunities to engage with the FBI and we’re taking this as a real opportunity to engage. I think we’re going to see much more enforcement.”

The AGA has asked federal officials to continue educating consumers on legal gaming options and the dangers associated with illegal operations. The group also asked authorities to investigate and indite major offshore operators that “openly violate federal and state laws,” according to the letter published earlier this year.

Many offshore sites have and continue to advertise in the US, confusing bettors who assume they are legal, regulated offerings. Studies show that even many frequent bettors don’t realize that betting with these unlicensed bookmakers is technically illegal.

In their letter to the Justice Department, members of Congress wrote that internet searches nationwide for offshore sportsbooks increased by almost 40% in 2021, outpacing searches for legal ones.

“These dangerous operators are not relegated to the dark web, but instead are easily accessed through any computer or smartphone,” wrote the group of more than two-dozen members of the House of Representatives. “This creates confusion for many consumers who may not even know they are wagering illegally.”

Both the AGA and Congressional delegations are pushing the feds to also crack down on unlicensed video lottery and gaming terminal machines, which act akin to slot machines and are in thousands of gas stations and truck stops nationwide. Like unlicensed offshore sites, these machines offer no consumer protections.

About the author

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Ryan Butler

Ryan is a veteran sports betting and iGaming regulation and breaking news journalist based in the US. A two-time Associated Press Sports Editors award winner, he has reported on sports and politics since 2012. He has covered the gaming industry since 2018. Ryan graduated from the University of Florida with a major in Journalism and a minor in Sport Management.

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