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Why The AGA Supports Big Changes To Sports Betting Laws

<p>A board displays odds for different bets for the fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor at the Westgate Superbook sports book, Thursday, Aug. 24, 2017, in Las Vegas.</p>
AP Photo/John Locher

A board displays odds for different bets for the fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor at the Westgate Superbook sports book, Thursday, Aug. 24, 2017, in Las Vegas.

The nation's gambling landscape may change later this year.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule this spring on whether to overturn a law that bans sports betting in most of the country.

Nevada, of course, is a key exception to that law.

What happens to our gaming industry, though, if sportsbooks can open anywhere in the country?

Geoff Freeman is president of the American Gaming Association, a group that advocates for the casino industry.

The AGA supports the repeal of PASPA – the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which limited full sports betting to Nevada. 

“We support legal, regulated gaming in this country,” he said.

Freeman said the biggest problem the AGA has with the current system is that an estimated $150 billion a year is wagered in the illegal sports betting market. Compare that with the $5 billion in regulated wagers in Nevada every year.

He said the illegal sports betting market drags down the legal one in Nevada, offers no protections for consumers and most of the money doesn't make it back into the community.

“How do we take a hard look at that and bring that into the legal, regulated market where our proven companies, our proven regulators can improve this product, protect consumers, and strengthen the industry in the process,” Freeman said.

If the Supreme Court rules in favor of New Jersey, which brought the lawsuit in the first place, Freeman believes as many as 20 states would allow sports betting.

He said New Jersey would be ready to go quickly because it has already started the licensing process for companies.

“There is tremendous demand for this product." Freeman said, "There is a tremendous demand to bring this out of the shadows to regulate in this area, to protect consumers and we would expect that to expand quite rapidly around the country."

Some sports book operators in Nevada have expressed concern about losing their near monopoly on sports betting. However, Freeman was quick to point out that the state has a monopoly in name only. Sports betting is happening in every state - it's just not legal in every state.

He also used tribal gaming as an example of what happens when gaming expands. When tribal gaming started to expand in the 90s and 2000s, some people in the gaming industry were worried it might cut into Nevada's profits. In reality, it actually boosted profits and brought in more customers.

“What Nevada – what Las Vegas specifically – has to offer is unique," he said, "There is nowhere else in the country where you’re going to find that type of entertainment experience.”

So, even if gaming is allowed in every state, he believes people will still come to Las Vegas for the experience of betting on big events like March Madness or the Super Bowl.

“Nevada is the leader for this industry. What’s good for the expansion of gaming has proven to be good for Nevada,” he said.

Geoff Freeman, president, American Gaming Association

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Casey Morell is the coordinating producer of Nevada Public Radio's flagship broadcast State of Nevada and one of the station's midday newscast announcers. (He's also been interviewed by Jimmy Fallon, whatever that's worth.)