In the shuffle of media arguing for and against sports betting, there’s one point that is consistently getting missed.
The major focus of coverage regarding legal sports betting is usually on how much revenue sportsbooks can bring in. What’s lost in the discussion is how betting online illegally doesn’t always work out for the consumers. Legalizing online sports betting provides protection by enforcing regulation and accountability.
In midafternoon on April 9, Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy started a Twitter war with MyBookie after their supposed head oddsmaker chirped a few insults at him. What ensued could be described as a scorched Earth approach from Portnoy and his followers.
But the stories and exchanges that Portnoy’s followers have shared regarding their interactions with MyBookie bring another point to light: When consumers are forced to use an unregulated market, they often get burned.
It’s a common story among consumers who bet in the unregulated online market. They often deposit money to an offshore sportsbook, then are unable to withdraw their eventual winnings; this happens on a daily basis around the country.
The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) made sports betting illegal on the federal level too, but that didn’t stop various offshore sportsbooks from offering their services to U.S. users. The market of users is there, thus a chance for offshore books to make a lot of money.
Despite the repeal of PASPA, offshore sites are still outright illegal. These sportsbooks are illegal by various state laws, as well as by the Federal Wire Act of 1961. Because the Wire Act covers interstate (not intrastate) and foreign betting, they don’t “operate in a legal gray area,” as all these offshore books might advertise.
The point is, offshore sportsbooks answer to nobody. The can make the rules, and they can close accounts and disappear with money without any explanation. Some books like MyBookie even have rules like “recreational sports betting only” as an excuse for these actions.
This is one of the secondary points that Portnoy’s crusade has brought forward. He retweeted hundreds of stories regarding people who were pushed around by MyBookie, and thousands more are still commenting their own stories, and the government will be powerless and/or unwilling to help.
The lesson for lawmakers is that online sports betting will happen regardless of the laws in place to prevent it. These illegal sites have not faded post-PASPA even as some states have legalized online sports betting, because most states haven’t.
Unless there are turbo-aggressive laws and punishments in place for these sites and people who use them, it will be nigh impossible to stop online sports betting. The necessary systems to detect illegal sports betting would likely be too hard to put in place, and would violate many privacy laws.
The only way for lawmakers to truly protect consumers from the black market is to legalize online sports betting in their states and to have sportsbooks operate under government regulation.
With regulated online sportsbooks comes stability and a guarantee that users will get their money back when requested. It’s something that most of the country lacks currently, and it’s causing thousands of people to lose their money to companies that are held accountable by nobody.
So in essence, this is an open letter to lawmakers across the nation. Look beyond the possible revenue margin and don’t be blind to reality. Online sports betting is happening regardless of the laws. Legalize it online to make offshore sportsbooks a thing of the past.