Sports betting is now legal in more than two dozen states across the United States. In some states, it’s only in-person betting that’s legal, while in others, online sports betting is an option too. Over the next few years, the list of states that allow sports betting is expected to rise.

This increase in legal sports betting came about in 2018 when the Supreme Court placed the matter of legalizing sports betting into the hands of individual states to decide on. Sports betting has since been legalized in several states but is yet to be legal on a federal level.

For people who live in states where sports betting is legal, often the only option for them is to use illegal sportsbooks for placing wagers. Unfortunately, many of these illegal sportsbooks are unsafe and the interests of the punters are not protected.

What’s the Deal with Illegal Sportsbooks?

Thanks to the internet, a rash of illegal bookies have taken advantage of lax or even non-existent laws in places like Costa Rica, Antigua, Panama, and Latvia to set up online sportsbooks. For many of these bookies, their focus has been the American public. These sportsbooks are illegal in the United States and prey on unsuspecting Americans.

Despite so many states legalizing sports betting and in the wake of the Supreme Court decision in Murphy v. NCAA, there are still large numbers of unscrupulous operators taking advantage of unsuspecting members of the public.

Congress Asks for Help from The Department of Justice

More than two dozen members of the Congressional Gaming Caucus have made a special request to the Justice Department. A signed letter was sent to Attorney General Merrick Garland asking that the Justice Department make a concerted effort to clamp down on offshore operators.

Among the signatures in the letter sent by the Gaming Caucus were co-chairs Guy Reschenthaler (R-Pennsylvania) and Dina Titus (D-Nevada). Offshore operators listed in the letter included BetOnline, MyBookie, and Bovada. According to lawmakers, these platforms are almost indistinguishable from legally licensed providers.

The lawmakers’ concerns include predatory operating methods that expose people to cyber and financial vulnerabilities. These platforms have no protocols that address money laundering, age restrictions, or sports integrity. They also undermine efforts by the state to capture much-needed tax revenue via legal sports betting channels.

While interest in legal sports betting has grown rapidly statewide, online searches for offshore sportsbooks are growing even faster. According to the lawmakers, searches increased by almost 40%, most of which related to Bovada.

Interested gamblers don’t have to use the dark web to find these dangerous operators. Instead, they can easily be accessed using a smartphone or computer. For many consumers, this can be very confusing. Many might not even realize they are wagering illegally.

AGA, Sports Leagues Are Also Calling for Action

Illegal sports betting doesn’t just include unlicensed offshore sportsbooks. Some local bookmakers operate illegally. The government has been working to get some of these cases before courts and grand juries.

In the letter, it asks for the DOJ to work with key stakeholders so that they can identify the worst illegal operations and take the necessary action against them. It also urges federal officials to help in educating American bettors about illegal betting and the dangers they face.

Sports betting is now legal in more than half of the US. the District of Columbia, 30 states and Puerto Rico allow either online wagering, retail sportsbooks, or both. Five more states have recently legalized such activities, and Massachusetts and California could add their names to the list at the end of the year.

The caucus’ letter has the support of the AGA as well as the NFL, MLB, NHL, and PGA Tour.

Appreciation has been expressed for the continued engagement of Congress and joining them in urging the Department of Justice to deal with any problems created by illegal offshore gambling operators.

Ideally, lawmakers want DJ officials to respond to their letter by September 6. Ultimately, support is needed from Congress so that action can be taken and offshore operators prosecuted.    

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