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Michigan Joins National Effort To Combat Offshore Sportsbooks

The state’s top gaming regulator added his signature to a letter urging U.S. Justice Department action




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The Michigan Gaming Control Board has joined an effort among gaming regulators nationally to urge the U.S. Department of Justice to go after illegal offshore sportsbooks.

MGCB Executive Director Henry Williams was among seven state regulators who signed a letter sent last week to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland urging his office to help state regulators battle the black-market books.

“In Michigan, strict laws and rules govern internet gaming and sports betting and provide consumer protections, promote confidence and ensure fair and honest gaming,” Williams said in a statement put out by the MGCB. “We are willing to help the U.S. Department of Justice in any way we can as it pursues enforcement of U.S. laws against offshore illegal gaming enterprises that take advantage of our citizens.”

As well as Williams, regulators from Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, and Nevada added their signatures to last week’s letter, which was penned by Nevada Gaming Control Board Chairman Kirk D. Hendrick. It follows last year’s American Gaming Association report that highlighted risks posed by offshore sportsbooks.

“These sportsbooks are illegal in the United States and prey on unsuspecting Americans, despite claims of regulation and licensure in their home countries,” the AGA report stated. “In the wake of the Supreme Court decision in Murphy v. NCAA and more than half of the states legalizing sports betting, these unscrupulous operators continue to take advantage of the unsuspecting public.”

Offshore books lacking in regulations

The regulators identified several dangers posed by illegal offshore sites, including lack of investment in responsible gaming programs, no enforcement of age verification requirements, no anti-money laundering controls, no guarantees of fair payouts, and loss of state tax revenue.

Laws in each of the U.S. states that have legalized sports betting require regulators to conduct background investigations before issuing licenses to regulated sportsbooks, something offshore books aren’t subject to.

“State regulators like the MGCB ensure operators offer products that pass technical standards and testing, and we also require operators to comply with reporting requirements,” Williams added. “Offshore operators flaunt state regulations and offer products that do not protect the public, which greatly concerns me and my fellow state regulators.”

Photo: Nic Antaya/Getty Images