ATLANTIC CITY, NJ (AP) — The national gaming industry trade association in the United States is calling on the federal government to crack down on illegal betting sites, saying consumers must be protected.
The American Gaming Association said Thursday it has sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland asking the Justice Department to investigate and prosecute the largest illegal bookmaking operations.
“While the challenge of illegal gambling is not new, the brazen and coordinated way in which it is occurring – both online and in communities – has elevated this problem to a level that requires significant federal attention,” wrote Bill Miller, president of the association.
The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.
Sports betting is currently legal in 33 states and Washington, DC, and more than 157 million American adults have or will soon be able to legally bet on sports in their state.
But the illegal market continues to exist, including through websites, many of which are based in foreign countries.
These illegal operators can offer better odds and promotions than legal operators because offshore operations do not pay taxes or have to comply with government regulations, Miller said.
“Illicit gambling operations have also been known to simply disappear, leaving with their customers’ funds,” he added.
Miller said the association has done research showing that most consumers want to use legal and regulated gambling options, but aren’t always able to tell which sites are legal and which aren’t.
Miller also said Internet searches for illegal betting sites grew 38% last year, faster than the rate of searches for legal betting sites.
Sports betting was illegal in all but four US states until New Jersey won a Supreme Court case in 2018 allowing any state to offer it legally.
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