A total of 28 US representatives have signed a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland and the Department of Justice, calling for a crackdown on offshore operators, particularly Bovada, MyBookie and BetOnline.
The effort was led by Dina Titus and Guy Reschenthaler, co-chairs of the Congressional Gaming Caucus, and was signed by 26 other representatives.
The letter described offshore sportsbooks as “predatory operations” that “expose our constituents to financial and cyber vulnerabilities; do not have protocols to address money laundering, sports integrity, or age restrictions; and undermine states’ efforts to capture much needed tax revenue through legal sports betting channels”.
The letter called out three well-known offshore operators by name, saying that sites including Bovada, MyBookie and BetOnline “have developed sophisticated platforms that are nearly indistinguishable from those of legal providers”.
These sites – it also noted – are “frequently cited in reputable sports media channels”.
The letter argued that the player protections that exist for regulated sites are “non-existent” in the unregulated sector.
“The illegal operators are not interested in helping bettors wager responsibly by providing checks like time limits, budgets, or self-exclusion,” it said. “They do not adhere to federal or state financial regulations, so consumers can never be sure if their information is secure or if they will receive their winnings. These operators are not bound by age restrictions, meaning children and young adults can be exploited by these websites.
“Finally, these illegal operators do not help promote the integrity of sporting contests by sharing with sports leagues information related to unusual betting patterns or insider betting, as many regulated sports books do.”
The letter called on Garland and the Justice Department to “identify the worst actors, investigate and prosecute them, and educate Americans on the dangers associated with illegally wagering on sports”.
In addition it called on the Department to issue a response by 6 September, which is the Monday before the 2022 NFL season begins.
American Gaming Association chief executive Bill Miller praised the congresspeople for taking this stance.
“Offshore gambling websites are a significant threat to consumer protections and the economic benefits legal gaming provides for communities across the country,” he said. “Eradicating these websites, and all forms of illegal gambling, is one of AGA’s top priorities.
“After our initial outreach to the Department of Justice in April, today’s letter to Attorney General Garland demonstrates the broad interest in addressing illegal gaming. We are grateful to Gaming Caucus Co-Chairs Reps. Titus and Reschenthaler for their leadership and the Members who joined this call to action.”