The Massachusetts Gaming Commission has joined forces with regulators from several other states to call on the U.S. Justice Department to take action against illegal gambling operators. Through this group action, regulators are seeking to protect consumers and combat the numerous risks associated with unregulated offshore sportsbooks and online casinos.
For years, Massachusetts tolerated various forms of illegal gaming. However, with the state now openly regulating, taxing, and promoting casino gaming and sports wagering, the focus has shifted toward taking out illegal operators from the market.
Members of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission decided Tuesday to send a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, echoing the sentiments expressed by regulators from Colorado, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, and Illinois in a similar letter sent on April 28.
The letter from the seven state regulators emphasizes the need to safeguard Americans from illegal offshore gambling platforms that disregard responsible gaming practices. Moreover, regulators argue that such operators contribute to the loss of state tax revenue, fail to implement age verification measures to protect minors, lack controls against money laundering, and do not guarantee fair payouts to customers.
Additionally, the regulators expressed concerns about the potential use of funds generated by these illicit operators to support other illegal activities, including human trafficking and the drug trade. Recognizing the limitations of state-level actions, regulators are calling for federal attention and engagement to address the significant threats posed by offshore illegal gambling.
“We strongly encourage the Department of Justice to prioritize investigation and prosecution of these offshore sites, and stand ready to provide any assistance that we can as state gaming regulators,” the regulators collectively wrote in the April letter, as reported by State House News Service.
During Tuesday’s meeting, members of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission reviewed and made edits to their own letter to Attorney General Garland. Commission Chair Cathy Judd-Stein highlighted the commission’s efforts in implementing consumer protections and advertising regulations, stressing the importance of the legal gaming market competing with, and ultimately putting out of business, the illegal market.
Commissioner Nakisha Skinner inquired about any ongoing federal government efforts regarding illegal gambling, to which Judd-Stein responded that they were not privy to such information. “I think that we might not know,” Judd-Stein acknowledged, as per the cited source. “I imagine there are efforts underway. But they might not be able to reveal them to us.”
The joint effort by multiple states’ gaming regulators, including Massachusetts, signals a united front in tackling the pervasive issue of illegal gambling. The regulators’ letters follow other recent industry calls for a crackdown on unregulated gambling. In December, the American Gaming Association put out a report in which it detailed the pervasiveness of illegal gambling throughout the country, also calling for further measures to fight this growing black market.
Americans gamble more than half a trillion dollars illegally each year, according to the report. Bettors gamble an estimated $511 billion yearly with illegal and unregulated sportsbooks, iGaming websites and so-called “skill games,” with predatory operators costing state governments about $13.3 billion in lost taxes.