Las Vegas Review-Journal - Report calls for end to federal ban on sports betting

Article | 03.02.2017

March 2, 2017 

By Richard N. Velotta 

When President Barack Obama rolled out his March Madness college basketball bracket predictions on television every year, he acknowledged his participation in an illegal activity commonly enjoyed in workplaces nationwide.

Now, a nonprofit Washington think tank is criticizing the federal ban on sports wagering, joining the chorus of organizations seeking repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992.

The libertarian-leaning Competitive Enterprise Institute planned to issue a 14-page report Thursday that questions how alcohol and tobacco consumption are banned in most businesses while another “sinful” activity, sports gambling, is embraced by workers and their CEOs, especially around Super Bowl Sunday and the kickoff of the NCAA tournament.

Nevada is the only state with legalized sports wagering.

A few other states allow some restricted forms of gambling on sports.

“Gambling prohibitions … function as a form of social engineering that seeks to stamp out a certain behavior formally,” report authors Steven Titch and Michelle Minton said in their report, “Time to End the Madness around March Madness.”

The American Gaming Association, whose membership includes casino operators and suppliers nationwide, including several Nevada companies, made repealing PASPA a top priority last year, and its leadership has worked to lobby federal lawmakers to consider legislation to lift the sports-betting ban.

The Titch and Minton report supports the position that eliminating the ban would generate tax revenue and help professional and amateur sports leagues bolster the integrity of games because bettors and bookmakers would have a vested financial interest in a game’s outcome.

“Legalizing sports betting would produce substantial social and political benefits by exposing billions of dollars in economic activity to the sunshine of legitimacy,” said Minton, a Competitive Enterprise Institute fellow specializing in consumer policy.

“Decriminalization would renew respect for the law by individuals who see gambling on sports as a valid form of entertainment for adults. Allowing bookies and authorities to work together to stop match fixing — which is in both of their interests — would bolster the integrity of sports,” she said.

The report’s research says Americans spend between $150 billion and $400 billion a year on sports gambling with between 95 percent and 99 percent of those bets are illegally placed with off-shore sports books or unlicensed bookmakers.