UNLV IGI report offers a blueprint for legal US sports gambling

Sports gambling has been a contentious subject in the U.S., as well as in other countries, for a very long time. There are constant objections to making the activity legal, with most opponents arguing that allowing sportsbooks to operate in the open would lead to rampant integrity and match-fixing issues. The assertion has no solid data to back it up; if anything, a large unlicensed industry puts integrity at greater risk due to lesser oversight. On the heels of the coronavirus pandemic, legalized sports gambling is receiving a lot of attention for its possibilities in helping boost economies, but there are a lot of questions that have to be answered. Fortunately, the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) and its International Gaming Institute (IGI) have come to the rescue. The organization has published an in-depth report on sports gambling and how it can be legalized without undermining the sportsmanship spirit of athletic competitions. Lawmakers across the country should especially pay attention to the report as they wrangle with the creation of blueprints for legalized sports gambling. 

IGI’s “The Big Questions: Sports Wagering in America” is a 33-page report (pdf) that, among other things, answers many of the questions regarding sports gambling and how it can be implemented legally while ensuring there’s no increase in corruption. It is accompanied by an infographic (pdf) that makes it easier for some to understand what is possible. Among the topics explored are ensuring integrity with legalized sports gambling, the impact the activity could have on youth, perceptions of gambling on the part of U.S. citizens and more. 

Whether certain lawmakers and casino operators want to admit it or not, sports gambling is already alive and well in the U.S. There’s a large grey area from which sportsbooks have been reaching U.S. gambling fans, and the offshore market is said to be worth as much as $150 billion. That means that, not only is the U.S. not able to capitalize on that tax revenue, but it is also unable to implement any significant oversight to protect gamblers. In addition, sports gambling has been legal in other countries for decades. While there have been integrity issues in those jurisdictions, they’re not “rampant” as some anti-gamblers would like people to believe. 

The IGI report looks at that, as well as much more. It was sponsored by the GVC Foundation U.S., which was founded by gaming operator GVC Holdings, and authored, in part, by Alan Feldman, Distinguished Fellow in Responsible Gaming at IGI and chair of the International Center for Responsible Gaming. The GVC Foundation’s Martin Lycka, who also serves as the director of regulatory affairs for GVC Holdings, explains of the report’s purpose, “Our goal in drafting questions for the study was to highlight all major aspects of sports betting–the good, the bad and the ugly. For sports betting to be the fun, safe, and well-structured enterprise that it’s meant to be, our industry needs to commit to honestly presenting its unique components to all regulators and legislators alike.” 

GVC Holdings didn’t have access to the report until it was made public, which helps to ensure that there was no pro-gambling slant given to the context. It was “subjected to a rigorous, independent peer review conducted by two expert academics unaffiliated with his project,” and is a must-read for everyone dealing with the subject of sports gambling regulations in the U.S. or elsewhere. 

Explains, UNLV IGI Executive Director Bo Jason Bernhard, “We expect to see a surge in the popularity of sports betting as the U.S. acclimates to this ‘new normal.’ As researchers, we want to ensure that this industry is regulated in a way that fosters the socio-economic benefits of gambling while minimizing its harms. As always, the IGI seeks to shed academic light on the major debates of the day, bringing together our ‘dream team’ of experienced and multi-disciplinary thinkers to weigh in on the big questions. Today, U.S. policymakers can rely on an independent evaluation that covers a range of key issues, thanks to this first-of-its-kind report.”