AGA has historically been neutral or opposed to online gambling
Online Poker Report

AGA Supports Mobile Sports Betting; Remains Silent On Online Poker

AGA silent online poker

The American Gaming Association is a vocal supporter of legal, regulated sports betting, including mobile wagering, yet the group has been deafeningly silent on the topic of online gambling.

That silence could be coming to an end.

With the US Supreme Court paving the way for states to take sports betting matters into their own hands, the AGA’s focus has shifted to legislation and ensuring that the new legal sports betting markets are successful and capture the sports betting dollars currently heading offshore.

In a letter to federal lawmakers, the AGA wrote:

“Following last week’s momentous U.S. Supreme Court decision ending the federal sports betting ban, the casino gaming industry is dedicated to building the world’s most secure and successful sports betting system. As legal, regulated sport betting expands across the country, AGA and the gaming industry will work with all stakeholders who share our commitment to eliminating the vast illegal gaming market.”

Among its list of top priorities when it comes to creating a successful legal sports betting market in the US is, “consumer-centric conveniences such as intrastate mobile wagering.”

From a practical policy standpoint, the AGA’s support of mobile wagering isn’t surprising. Despite an in-person registration requirement, mobile is responsible for roughly 50 percent of all sports wagering in the state of Nevada.

The AGA’s support of mobile sports betting is at odds with its position of “no position” when it comes to online poker and online casino games.

CliffsNotes version of the AGA history on online gambling

During most of its Frank Fahrenkopf era, the AGA opposed legal online gaming. However, over the years the group’s position softened, and by the time Geoff Freeman took over for the longtime AGA head in 2013.

Under Freeman, the AGA supported federal legislation legalizing and regulating online gambling.

Unfortunately, that stance was short-lived. A rift among AGA members (namely Sheldon Adelson) caused the AGA to withdraw its support and adopt the position of “no position” when it came to online gaming.

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AGA’s online gambling stance is softening

The AGA’s support of mobile sports betting is likely the final nail in the coffin for its neutrality on the issue.

First, sports betting isn’t the first time the AGA has tried to square the online circle. The group walked a similar tightrope during the DFS debate and is likely growing tired of trying to explain an unexplainable policy position.

In 2015 the AGA issued a statement on illegal gambling that subtly implied legalization and regulation might be the answer. A few months later, Freeman cautioned against federal legislation prohibiting online gambling during an interview with Jon Ralston, but stopped short of supporting legalization.

At a 2016 hearing in front of the Nevada Gaming Policy Committee, Freeman spoke about the need to crackdown on the existing black market, but once again stopped short of offering the obvious solution: legalizing and regulating online gaming.

More recently, several online gaming-centric companies have joined the AGA membership ranks, and a major impediment in the form of Steve Wynn has been removed — Wynn has been hot and cold on the issue over the years, growing increasingly negative on the issue.

And of course, there is the inevitability of it all:

  • Legal online lotteries exist in six states
  • Four states have legalized online casino and/or poker
  • Nineteen states have enacted DFS laws
  • Online sports betting is available in Nevada and will likely be a component in other states
  • States across the country are considering DFS, sports betting, and/or online gambling legislation
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Steve Ruddock
- Steve covers nearly every angle of online poker in his job as a full-time freelance poker writer. His primary focus for OPR is the developing legal and legislative picture for regulated US online poker and gambling.