Five Pennsylvania Legislators Join Group Urging DOJ To Take Action Against Offshore Sportsbooks

Written By Katie Kohler on June 30, 2022 - Last Updated on July 4, 2022
offshore sportsbooks pa

Five legislators from Pennsylvania were among a bipartisan group from Congress who sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland asking the Department of Justice to take action against offshore sportsbooks.

The letter, dated June 29, reads in part:

“These predatory operations 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.”

In total, 28 representatives from 13 states signed the letter with Congressman Dina Titus and Congressman Guy Reschenthaler (R – 14th District) as the first signatures. They are the co-chairs of the Congressional Gaming Caucus. Other representatives from Pennsylvania to sign were Mary Gay Scanlon (D- 5th District), Brian Fitzpatrick (R – 1st District), Mike Kelly (R-16th District), and Fred Keller (R- 12th District).

Danger of offshore sportsbooks

The Supreme Court overturned PAPSA in 2018 which made sports betting legal outside of Nevada. Six months later, Pennsylvania took its first legal wager. In 2021, $52.7 billion was bet on sports across the 30 states with legalized sports betting.

Despite the growing options for regulated sportsbooks in the United States, the group says that in 2021, internet searches for offshore increased by almost 40%. Internet searches for offshore sportsbooks, with Bovada representing half of the queries, outpaced people looking online for regulated sportsbooks.

In states like Pennsylvania where 90% of all wagers are placed online, offshore sportsbooks are not “relegated to the dark web” and create confusion for customers who do not know they are wagering illegally. A survey showed that more than half of consumers who placed most of their wagers with illegal operators believed they bet legally.

“The protections Americans have learned to expect from legal regulated sportsbooks, like responsible gaming functions, secured personal and financial information, and identity verification, are non-existent. 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 sportsbooks do.”

Legislators and AGA ask DOJ to take action against offshore sportsbooks

The Congressional group asked for a response by the Justice Department by September 6, 2022 outlining tools from Congress that can help law enforcement action ensure prosecutorial support to “disrupting and dismantling these criminal organizations.”

The 2022 NFL season starts on Thursday, Sept. 8 which is the busiest season for sportsbooks.

In April, the America Gaming Association made a similar plea to Garland to “address pervasive illegal gambling.”

American Gaming Association President and CEO Bill Miller commented in a press release:

“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.

“Our country’s leaders are clearly and appropriately alarmed by the prevalence of offshore sportsbooks. Law enforcement must act to identify the worst actors, investigate and prosecute them.

Lead image c/o Shutterstock

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Katie Kohler

Katie Kohler is a Philadelphia-area based award-winning journalist and Managing Editor at PlayPennsylvania. Katie especially enjoys creating unique content and on-the-ground reporting in PA. She is focused on creating valuable, timely content about casinos and sports betting for readers. Katie has covered the legal Pennsylvania gambling industry for Catena Media since 2019.

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