Former NY Prosecutor: Law Enforcement Should Shut Down Illegal Online Betting

Written By Nicholaus Garcia on March 31, 2021

A common misconception in the US is that if you can hop onto a website and place a sports bet, it must be legal. Sadly, this is not the case. As legal sports betting continues to spread across the US, a new resource, the Bettor Safe Campaign, has become available to educate the public on the difference between illegal and legal betting websites.

A product of Conscious Gaming, Bettor Safe aims to help customers learn why to stay away from offshore betting.

But it might take a bit more than just education to prevent the general public from placing wagers on unlicensed, unregulated websites.

Additional allies could be useful

Education is indeed a necessary tool. However, according to Sharon Cohen Levin, a partner with Sullivan & Cromwell in New York, there is one other component that could be a useful ally in the fight against the illegal market.

When asked what that something could be, without hesitation, Levin said, “law enforcement action.”

“These illegally operating sites can cause real harm to the consuming public, such as through fraud, and it would be welcomed if the government took action to shut them down.”

As a former federal prosecutor in the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, Levin knows a thing or two about illegal websites. She led the Money Laundering and Asset Forfeiture Unit for two decades and was instrumental in action against online poker rooms deemed to be serving the US illegally.

The need for Bettor Safe

The need for increased education comes following a study conducted by the American Gaming Association, which concluded that 55% of individuals who placed bets with an illegal website believed they were betting legally.

Levin said, when the 2018 Supreme Court decision on sports betting came in, average customers were under the impression sports betting was now legal everywhere.

“The consumer, if they google sports betting, a whole bunch of websites will pop-up, and they aren’t going to know or take the time to check if the website is legal or regulated,” Levin said.

Bettor Safe plans to educate consumers through four different verticles:

  • Website – An educational tool that will serve as the central hub for resources.
  • Radio/TV – Ads targeting individuals on the platforms they use to curate news and information.
  • Video – Informational videos that serve to educate.
  • Media – Targeted national and in-state media placements coupled with social media tools to help spread awareness.

Two-state kickoff to start

The campaign will first launch in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, each with its own initiative.

Out of 1,078 adults in NJ and PA surveyed by Conscious Gaming, one out of four were unaware if online sports betting was legal in their state. Additionally, at least 75% of those surveyed between Feb. 24-26 could not differentiate between a legal and illegal betting site.

According to Seth Palansky, vice president of corporate social responsibility and communications at Conscious Gaming, the plan is for more state-specific sites to roll out in the future.

“We’ll go back and do more surveying and understand if we made an impact. We can analyze data on web traffic and engagement to see if we are able to drive the message home and be a tool for folks. It’s very hard to understand what’s going on quickly and easily. But folks are willing to do research,” Palansky said.

Step in the right direction in battling offshore sites

Although it may take time to spread awareness, Bettor Safe is providing valuable information.

“It’s important to have a resource like Bettor Safe,” Levin said. “Because it focuses on the risks to consumers.”

As Palansky noted, the plan will be to monitor New Jersey and Pennsylvania and hopefully launch additional campaigns in other gaming states like Illinois, Michigan, and New York.

Until then, it’s important that customers understand what a licensed, regulated sportsbook brings to the table.

“Being licensed and regulated means there is accountability,” Levin said.

Photo by Dreamstime.com
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Nicholaus Garcia

Nick has had stints in Chicago and Washington, D.C., writing about politics, financial markets, and sports betting. He graduated from Texas Tech University and completed his master's degree in journalism at Columbia College Chicago.

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