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A bill making its way through Congress would ban Internet gambling, but what it would also do is criminalize Nevada’s mobile sports wagering business.
The Restoration of America's Wire Act, is sponsored by Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah. A similar bill is expected to be introduced soon in the Senate by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
Both bills are supported by Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman Sheldon Adelson. He has vowed to support legislation and politicians who favor reinstating federal restrictions on Internet gaming.
Mobile sports betting apps have helped turn the state’s sports books into a $3.9 billion a year business.
The betting apps were first designed and released in 2011 by Leroy's Horse and Sports Palace Inc., whose owner, American Wagering Inc., was acquired by William Hill in 2011 for $18 million. Leroy's was the first U.S.-based gaming company to have a free sports betting application available on iTunes.
Joe Asher, the chief executive officer of William Hill, told KNPR's State of Nevada that shutting down mobile gaming apps may not have been the intent of the bill but it is one of the consequences.
"We don't necessarily think it is the intent of the bill but perhaps an unintended consequence would be to limit, if not take away, our ability to offer mobile sports betting," Asher said.
He said currently 40 percent of the companies handle is done through mobile phones.
"It is a significant part of the business," Asher said.
He said mobile sports wagering has been part of an overall growth of sports betting and it has not hurt over-the-counter betting.
Under current law, if the phone is in the state of Nevada, the person using it can place a bet. Bets from outside the state won't be accepted.
Asher said he's not a big fan of the bill generally, but turning off the ability to place bets in Nevada is nonsensical.
"Certainly, the idea of turning off the mobile sports wagering in Nevada doesn't make any sense to me," he said.
He is hoping the bill is rewritten to protect mobile gaming.
Sports betting apps are not the only Internet betting sites on the chopping block. If approved, the bill will also end online poker in Nevada.
Joe Asher, chief executive officer, William Hill US